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The ClassWallet dispute in Oklahoma has become one of the most talked-about education issues in the state. At the heart of the matter is Ryan Walters, appointed Oklahoma’s Secretary of Education by Governor Stitt.
Walters has faced ongoing investigations for misappropriation of funds, using relief dollars intended to help students during the coronavirus pandemic.
This issue has highlighted the role that the conservative think tank, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), plays in trying to reshape education in Oklahoma and how it relates to their support for Walters’ appointment.
What is ClassWallet?
This is a digital payment system that allows parents to pay for educational supplies and services outside of traditional public schools. It has gained national attention due to its involvement in education reform campaigns.
In Oklahoma, it received $8 million in federal coronavirus relief funds to help cover costs associated with virtual learning materials such as laptops and internet access.
The OCPA has actively pushed Senate Bill 1647, “Oklahoma Empowerment Act.” This bill would have allowed ClassWallet to receive additional funds, despite the ongoing investigations into Walters’ misappropriation of funds. The bill didn’t pass in early 2022.
Similarly, the OCPA has been a vocal supporter of Walters’ appointment and his controversial support for ClassWallet, despite the ongoing investigations.
Recently, Oklahoma Watch reported that despite the funds being intended for educational resources, some money had been used to purchase items such as Christmas trees, gaming consoles, hundreds of televisions, electric fireplaces, and outdoor grills.
On top of this, the ClassWallet dispute has revealed that $10 million was allocated to private school vouchers. This would benefit wealthier families while contributing to Oklahoma education’s already stark wealth disparity.
Despite his involvement in the misappropriation of funds, the OCPA’s promotion of Walters for the position of Secretary of Education reveals their willingness to ignore evidence and push forward reforms that may not necessarily benefit Oklahoma’s students.
Furthermore, the lack of transparency behind education reform campaigns lobbied by nonprofits such as Every Kid Counts Oklahoma and the OCPA raises significant questions about how public dollars are used.
It highlights a need for increased governmental oversight and accountability to promote fairness and equity in education.
This scandal serves as a reminder of why paying attention to education reform issues is essential and ensuring that taxpayer money is being used appropriately.
A Battle for Education and Equality, Not Politics
It’s crucial to remember that education reform and equality within Oklahoma must be centered on promoting better outcomes for students—not politics. That’s why it’s essential for the government to increase transparency and use taxpayer money appropriately. This is to ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed.
The OCPA’s efforts regarding Senate Bill 1647 reveal their political bias, which does little to support student success in the state.
For Oklahoma to truly move forward with successful education reform initiatives that are inclusive and equitable, these types of organizations need to be held accountable for their actions and decisions.
Only then can real progress be made toward improving educational outcomes throughout the state.