Superintendent warns federal funds can strip state control
February 1, 2023
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters warned lawmakers that they risk losing control of state schools if they accept all forms of federal funding without hesitation.
During a budget hearing, Walters told legislators he does not support elimination of all federal funding from Oklahoma schools, but said the state must not accept federal funds that impose requirements that fundamentally alter instruction in ways opposed by most Oklahomans.
“I want an analysis of every single dollar that’s spent in the state of Oklahoma,” Walters said. “I, in particular, want an audit and a deep dive into federal dollars. We have seen Critical Race Theory, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs, transgender education, pushed under the guise of federal dollars. You take this money and ‘we have to do this to you.’ We have had correspondence with the Biden administration that says that is going to be a continued point of emphasis from them. So what I want to ensure is that Oklahomans—this legislative body, parents, teachers around the state—we’re making decisions on what’s best for kids. Not Joe Biden and the federal government, but us.”
Walters’ willingness to forgo some federal funding has drawn criticism from some activists and Democratic lawmakers.
House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson of Oklahoma City recently objected to calls to reduce Oklahoma schools’ reliance on federal funds, saying that meant Oklahomans would be “paying federal taxes to support other states but not your own.”
But Walters said voters across Oklahoma have expressed concern about the impact that federal funds can have on local schools, including dramatically altering instruction.
“Oklahomans are very concerned about what Joe Biden is doing to our classroom,” Walters said. “They’re very concerned about what the federal Department of Education is doing to our schools and to our classrooms. And we’ve got to make sure that the money we’re getting is being spent wisely, but also (that) we’re able to make the decisions as a state on what our education system looks like, and we’re not beholden to Joe Biden’s radical agenda.”