Estela Hernandez (left) is pictured here with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister on August 25, 2016, in Hernandez's role as a judge in the 2017 “Oklahoma Teacher of the Year” competition.
State Senator Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, recently announced she opposed Estela Hernandez’s nomination to serve on the State Board of Education because of Hicks’s “fundamental disagreement” with the education views of the Republican. The rest of the Democratic caucus has been voting in lockstep against Gov. Kevin Stitt’s state Board of Education nominees.
But one doesn’t have to be ideologically in step with liberal Democrats, who are a distinct minority in Oklahoma, to serve on the State Board of Education. The question is whether Hernandez is qualified. And no one, including Hicks, tries to argue Hernandez lacks the experience needed to serve on the board. There’s good reason for their silence: Hernandez has a long history of involvement in education that makes such claims laughable.
In 2016, Hernandez was invited to serve as a judge in the “Oklahoma Teacher of the Year” process hosted annually by the Oklahoma Department of Education. When Stitt nominated Hernandez for the board, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said she was “excited” and specifically noted she had “the honor of working” with Hernandez and Jennifer Monies, another of Stitt’s nominees. Hofmeister called both women “tireless and exceptional advocates for strong public education.”
Hernandez has served as a school board member and she’s the mother of three children who attend school in the Putnam City School District, the Oklahoma City Public School District, and Epic Charter Schools.
That means Hernandez has more up-close experience with Oklahoma education than most of the politicians who now oppose her. A solid understanding of the challenges facing public schools and a willingness to be a strong advocate for raising outcomes for all children are crucial traits for a state Board of Education member. Hernandez has those traits in spades. And that’s why her opponents fear her.