Democrats had two unusually good choices in this runoff race for the State Superintendent nomination between two long-time, dedicated education leaders: Freda Deskin and John Cox, the winner.
Now it is a race between John Cox and Joy Hofmeister. Both have a long track record of personal integrity. Both have a long track record of dedication to educational leadership and compassion for children. Both are highly personable, winsome, likeable people who understand the motivations of teachers and administrators.
Unless Hofmeister shifts positions, what will distinguish these two candidates will be their stance on “reform” as ALEC defines it, which means corporate charter schools and management corporations profiting at taxpayer expense.
Charter School Debate Is Not Over
Investors believe that corporate charters paid for by taxpayers is a huge market waiting to be sprung open. So there are millions that have been spent and will be spent lobbying for laws that will usher in charters as direct competition with public, democratically controlled schools even in the rural areas.
In April I published two posts against the corporate charter school approach that ALEC and it’s affiliate organizations were promoting: Bill Allowing Charter School Debt Threatens Education Funds in Oklahoma, and This Is What Happens When Bankers Run Public Schools. Both pieces point out the weaknesses and even dangers of corporate charter schools, cynically called “public charter schools” by proponents.
Eventually the radical charter schools proposal, SB573 was defeated. But something similar will be back. “Money never sleeps,” as the saying went in the movie Wall Street.
Questions for Candidates
The day after the June primaries, I raised several questions focused specifically on issues around the corporate charter school debate that had started during the legislative session: Necessary Questions for Oklahoma Supt of Schools Candidates.
Though different in approach, Deskin and Cox both went on record opposing the massive expansion of charters across the state. John Cox was especially direct in his opposition to ALEC sponsored corporate charters and the dangers of a dual system where public schools are held fully accountable and corporate charters get a pass.
Joy Hofmeister has yet to respond to those simple questions, or speak directly to the issues that another charter expansion attempt would raise. Why not?
The front page of her website has this language that leads one to wonder if she believes that the same reforms attempted by Barresi could happen, just with a nicer and more respectful administration:
During her time on the State Board of Education, Joy developed an understanding of the current obstacles blocking meaningful reform of our schools. Taking what she learned from her tenure on the Oklahoma State Board of Education, Joy will successfully reform our schools through trust, respect and collaboration.
The same money that was behind Janet Barresi is looking for another candidate. Who will they back? All you have to do to rule out Cox is to read his responses to my questions about charters, ALEC, and campaign finance.
The most likely candidate for that money will be Joy Hofmeister — Republican, executive for a private education service company for the last 14 years, and close associate of Republican Governor Mary Fallin, promoter of corporate charter schools before she realized that she had to cool it on that one for a while.
So that will be the most distinguishing difference between Cox and Hofmeister if she stays the same course as she has so far.
Until Joy Hofmeister gives some solid information refuting the reformists and edu-corporation approach, she will deserve our skepticism about her policies.