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Influence over Action

I’ve been asked a few times this week by readers to comment on the Governor’s transition from Phyllis Hudecki to Robert Sommers as Secretary of Education. The truth is that I don’t have much to say.

Hudecki is a lifetime Oklahoman who has worked for a long time to improve schools as a representative of the state’s business community. She has a history of listening to parents, teachers, and administrators. She is well-spoken and measured. Quite a few administrators in this state consider her to be an ally to the profession.

Sommers has been in Oklahoma for a few months. He has close ties to Jeb Bush and opened the door for more charter schools and vouchers in Ohio. He really doesn’t have a track record here, but we know this move strengthens the ties between our state’s leaders and the top engines for corporate education reform.

The most important thing to remember about this move, though, is that a Secretary’s role is quite different than that of the State Superintendent. Sommers will be a top education advisor to the governor. He will not be running an agency. He will not be making major policy decisions or selecting testing vendors. That will still be Janet Barresi, who is excited about the selection:

OKLAHOMA CITY (July 16, 2013) – Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi issued the following statement regarding the appointment by Gov. Mary Fallin of Dr. Robert Sommers as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Education and Workforce.

“I am pleased that Gov. Fallin has appointed Dr. Bob Sommers as Oklahoma’s Secretary of Education and Workforce. Since April, when Dr. Sommers became the state director of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, there has been a renewed sense of energy in the state’s educational partnership between career tech and the PK-12 public education system.

“Dr. Sommers truly understands the importance of increased student achievement and quality career training as it relates to preparing our children and adults to succeed in the workforce. This appointment confirms and strengthens our work in that direction.

“As I review job growth within the five ecosystems as identified by Gov. Fallin, many of the jobs of the future are in the STEM subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. As a means of assuring Oklahoma continues to enjoy positive economic growth, Dr. Sommers and I are committed to working together to provide opportunities in the STEM subjects to all students.”

If anything, this move places Governor Fallin closer to the inner circle of Jeb Bush, a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016. Since this is an education blog, and not a venue in which I care to discuss national politics, I should probably stop there.

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