Ray Carter | April 27, 2023

Oklahoma public schools to report DEI spending

Ray Carter

Oklahoma public-school districts must report all spending on “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” (DEI) programming under an order approved by the State Board of Education.

“Taxpayers need to be able to see where their dollars are being spent and what’s being taught in our schools,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters, who proposed the reporting mandate.

DEI programs have generated controversy and opposition across the nation with critics arguing the programs often teach de facto racism to students.

A December 2022 report by the Heritage Foundation on DEI programs noted, “At the heart of these multi-billion-dollar efforts—both public and philanthropic—are certain key assumptions: America is systemically racist; white America harbors unconscious racism; and equal rights, meritocracy, and the law itself reinforce a regime of white supremacy. Most of DEI’s practices violate the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act.”

“They call them ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion.’ They use these names and the nomenclature to let people think these are feel-good programs,” Walters said. “They’re not. They absolutely are not. It would be more accurate to call them ‘divide, exclude, and indoctrinate.’ That’s really what these programs are.”

Walters said DEI programs can push children into “not believing in themselves and their individual identity.”

“We have to reject this in our schools,” Walters said. “We must tell every student that they are special and uniquely created by their Creator, that they are capable of great things, and that we will not allow any type of curriculum or any type of personnel to tell them that they are less of a human being because of the color of their skin.”

“It would be more accurate to call them ‘divide, exclude, and indoctrinate.’ That’s really what these programs are.” —State Superintendent Ryan Walters

Walters noted that DEI has also become an umbrella term used for a wide range of programs, including some that may not be objectionable to parents. In a document outlining the proposed reporting requirement, Walters wrote, “I recognize that DEI has become a fashionable term in certain circles and that not all programming labeled as such is necessarily pursuing these harmful ends. Thus, to start the conversation on how DEI is affecting our schools, I believe some transparency is needed on the expenditures that Oklahoma schools are making.”

The board voted to require all Oklahoma public-school districts to provide a list of all DEI-related expenditures made in the school district during the 2022-2023 school year. That list must separately indicate expenditures on staff, materials, and third-party contractors or vendors, including the names of any outside vendors.

For each of those three subcategories, the list must separately indicate the amount of state or local funds, the amount of federal funds, and the amount of private funds involved in the expenditure.

The district reports must include a list of all personnel who spend at least 25 percent of their time operating or assisting with a DEI program and an electronic copy of all materials used by school staff or third-party contractors for DEI instruction.

The order defines DEI as “instruction or programs teaching that meritocracy, equality of opportunity, or freedom of speech is harmful to society or subgroups within society” and “anything that the school or district has labeled as involving or as related to DEI, whether for state or federal purposes.”

Walters predicted most Oklahoma districts will have little trouble complying because most have not embraced DEI programming.

“In talking to districts, most of our districts are not engaging in this material, and I want to be very up front with that,” Walters said.

Districts will have until June 9 to provide preliminary responses and must submit final reports by Sept. 1, although the board voted to allow extensions to districts that plead hardship.

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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