DEI commitments influence hiring in Tulsa Public Schools

Ray Carter | January 3, 2024

In recent years, Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) has sought teacher applicants who are focused on “equity” in education rather than equal opportunity, including applicants who are transgender or embrace other forms of “gender expression,” based on job descriptions obtained through an open-records request for documents related to the district’s teacher-hiring process.

TPS provided the records on November 29, 2023.

Two job descriptions—one for “elementary school teacher” and one for “secondary school teacher”—stress “equity” throughout the documents.

Both declared “equity” to be a “core value” of Tulsa Public Schools, stating that “we must foster an inclusive environment by examining biases and resolving unfair practices.”

Potential job applicants were told they would be expected to “be a champion for equitable education throughout the district,” and that an “equity mindset and commitment to ongoing learning about diverse cultures” were among the qualifications for a teaching position.

Both documents also indicated that transgender individuals were encouraged to apply, saying Tulsa Public Schools “does not discriminate on the basis” of “sexual orientation, gender expression,” or “gender identity.”

The Tulsa teacher-hiring documents are consistent with many cited in a recent national report published by the National Opportunity Project, which “found myriad examples of political and social ideology influencing the teacher-hiring process.”

The August 2023 report, “Who is teaching your children? How DEI policies influence K-12 educator hiring in America,” is billed as “the nation’s first survey and overview of the DEI hiring process in K-12 education.”

“The kinds of commitments public school systems are making these days aren’t simply words on a page,” report author Jessica Hockett wrote. “They inform everything the district does, including who gets to teach there. If applicants to such districts who don’t subscribe to certain views are weeded out, then the practices are merely another tool for indoctrinating K-12 students into a single political ideology.”

‘Equity-literate’ educators should teach about ‘racism, ableism, transphobia,’ and more

The emphasis on “equity” rather than equality in school settings has become increasingly controversial in recent years. While a focus on equality involves providing all students with the same opportunities and resources, “equity” requires that schools generate the same outcome for all students, regardless of individual initiative or similar factors.

In a 2021 column in The Wall Street Journal, Charles Lipson, a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Chicago, noted, “Equality means equal treatment, unbiased competition and impartially judged outcomes. Equity means equal outcomes, achieved if necessary by unequal treatment, biased competition, and preferential judging.”

In a 2021 column, Keri D. Ingraham, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, noted, “A growing number of people argue systemic racism is the primary or even the sole reason for varied achievement results between ethnic or race groups. In essence, they allege that the ‘basic American value of equality of opportunity—that the rules should apply equally to everyone, regardless of race—is racist, because equality of opportunity doesn’t always produce equality of results. The solution is “equity,” or attempting to achieve equality of results through discrimination.’ In turn, the claim of systemic racism is used to support policies that undo equal treatment of children.” (Emphasis in original.)

In a 2021 professional development training, Stephanie Williams, executive director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) at Norman Public Schools, declared that “equity will result in an individual or group of individuals sometimes getting more.” She acknowledged that parents may become upset when their children are treated differently than other children.

Not only does an “equity” focus mean treating students differently based on factors such as race or sex, but it can also involve instructing students to obsess over alleged “bias” as an explanation for challenges, rather than how to overcome obstacles.

One slide presented during the Norman training—“What does it mean to be equity literate?”—informed Norman school staff that “equity literate educators” will “cultivate in students the ability to analyze bias and inequity in classroom materials, classroom interactions, and school policies.”

The material also advised Norman teachers that “equity-literate educators” should “teach about sexism, poverty, racism, ableism, transphobia, and heterosexism.”

While it is not known if or to what degree Tulsa teachers have applied the “equity” mindset in the classroom, state testing results indicate the Tulsa district has achieved a rarely seen level of equity among students: The vast majority perform well below grade level.

For example, according to state school report cards for the 2022-2023 school year, just 4 percent of students at Anderson Elementary School in Tulsa were proficient in English Language Arts, while 75 percent were “below basic,” a category that indicates students are at least one year below grade level.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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