To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Monday, October 18, 2021

Observercast

Where’s Mary Fallin Now?

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BY TIM GILPIN

The Oklahoma State Board of Education is in turmoil led by outgoing State Superintendent Janet Barresi. That should concern Gov. Mary Fallin. And it should worry the rest of us because the governor’s leadership is absent at a very important time for our school children.

Yet, as best I can tell, the governor’s response to the current education mess is “no comment.” Mary Fallin stepped forward during past state Education Board controversies involving Janet Barresi. But where is she now?

Oklahoma does not have a contractor to administer the winter “End of Instruction” testing to about 50,000 students. For many the testing is necessary to meet high school graduation requirements. Like or hate the test, current law requires it and our students have to live with that fact. No testing contractor is willing to work with Ms. Barresi and Oklahoma.

The time to hire a testing contractor has passed and now will require emergency action by the state board. Oklahoma also blew the deadline to set acceptable academic standards for our school children.

Mary Fallin and the Legislature dumped Common Core standards, but did not replace it with sufficient and clear new standards. Whether you like Common Core or not, once it was repealed, an adequate timely replacement was required so our schools would continue to received much needed federal dollars under No Child Left Behind without strident regulations coming down from Washington.

Yet, no leadership from the governor on this education mess either.

Controversy at the State Board of Education is not new to me or this governor.

In January 2011, I was near the end of a six-year term on the board when Ms. Barresi was elected. We were the first board to encounter Barresi and her leadership choices. That board took a lot of heat for opposing Barresi’s decisions at the Oklahoma Department of Education.

Then Mary Fallin immediately stepped in to support Barresi and, until recently, the governor stood by her. In 2011, Mary Fallin exercised her power to criticize that State Education Board and supported legislation taking away its powers and gave Barresi an unhindered hand at the state Department of Education. At the same time Fallin gained the power to hire and fire state Board members upon demand.

In 2011 the governor was wiling to step in to support Barresi with a new board to her liking. Four years later we are coping with the consequences.

The current board is in turmoil with vital issues tabled that require past due action. Gov. Fallin needs to step in with the board she hired and the state superintendent she supported to help get this mess cleared up.

Everyone knows an election is near. Maybe that accounts for the governor’s present inaction. But the deadlines affecting our school children won’t wait for the day after election. Mary Fallin should step up and lead. Hard choices need to happen at the Oklahoma State Board of Education. So where is Mary Fallin now?

Tim Gilpin is a Tulsa attorney who served on the State Board of Education from 2005-11

6 COMMENTS

  1. I am very disappointed with Governor Fallin concerning Oklahoma Education. She needs to listen to the people of Oklahoma and get with the program. She needs to cut ties with Janet Barrisi who is arrogant and doesn’t really care about Oklahoma Education nor does she know anything about education. Unfortunately information from a man who knows Joe Dorman is that he would be a very bad choice for governor. I will vote for Mary Fallin but hope pressure from the people of Oklahoma will get her to help Oklahoma Education. Kind of caught between a rock and a hard place. Joe Dorman will take us down the path of Obama, heaven forbid.

  2. More reasons to oppose the re-election of a governor who has turned a blind eye to the needs of Oklahoma school children and the teachers who work with them. Oklahoma has some of the most stringent requirements for teacher certification in the nation yet pays teachers in the bottom 5% of the nation. Our schools have weathered massive budget cuts in the past several years. Teachers are leaving the profession or going out of state in droves. School districts have open teaching positions with no qualified applicants to fill them. These conditions result from and exemplify a failure of leadership at the highest levels. Oklahomans have already assured the removal of the incompetent State Superintendent of Public Instruction. The removal of the sitting governor should be next.

  3. Tim also Herb Rozelle was on that board and questioned what was going on. He was crucified by the Public as Boss Howg. Herb Rozelle knows more about education on his little finger than Fallin and Barresi together. Thanks Herb and Tim for your very honorable service and putting up with undue statements made by the public. Wish you were both there again. As a person with 40 plus year in school finance I think I can make these statements.

  4. Too bad that Joe Dorman’s opposition can manipulate voters by linking him with Obama. It’s like scaring kids with the boogie man when they might be thinking of stepping out of line. That’s how we wind up voting against our own best interest and electing knuckleheads like Fallin.

  5. What did you all do before this contract testing? Shouldn’t we be looking at doing that ourselves? Why must we pay a company to do this? If it is because of cheating. Put serial #s on the tests assigned to students. Then send them to a testing center,say the state capital and have volunteers score the tests. Easy peasy

  6. Sadly, there is no “state” board of anything…Frank Keating even got his bro on the board; you remember the illustrious gov…what a prize. As for the mass of ignorance in this formerly great state who vote their party line gods of groins, grab-ass, and go-Bamas …i.e. the amoral Mary Failin’ and her buddies, who bend with every ill wind and who won’t hesitate to throw educators and public servants under her bus…we’ve had enough. alan, retired educator

Arnold Hamilton
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.