I’m Not Counting Barresi Out Yet

Barresi Supt education
Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi presiding over a state Board meeting in June.

Many Oklahoma educators seem to believe that we will just never see our public schools chief Janet Barresi ever again after January 12th. Not so fast.

Just because Janet Barresi has a near miraculous way of rubbing about everyone the wrong way, that doesn’t mean that she is out of the game by any measure.

The interview

The Oklahoman generated one of their classic flack pieces for a favored politician a few days ago. Disguised as a real news report, this rambling PR bit reveals so many things that are wrong with Barresi’s thinking it would take less time for you to just listen to it instead.

I do want to point out three red threads of assumptions that run through her rambling filibuster of this interview and have been her stock in trade all along:

The tests that are given can be trusted and so the data from them can be trusted. Wow, folks! Look at all of this data that we have provided! That goes for numbers on individual teachers to whole schools on the A-F report card which she gushes about.  Too bad the tests don’t actually measure what she says they do.

See the A View from the Edge and OkEducationTruths blogs for many posts that break down in more technical detail why the tests are not a good data base for anything.

She was preceded by an incompetent chief and will be followed by one as well. It is stunning to hear her so casually criticize the Sandy Garrett administration as duplicating efforts, working in “silos”, resisting transparency, and not putting out a full effort for the children of Oklahoma.

And that Joy Hofmeister! She’s just a politician all the way. Never mind that Hofmeister and Garrett have been actual teachers before becoming Oklahoma’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. Barresi the dentist has not.

Oklahoma children will not stand a chance without her. She was their last, best hope, and now see what you stupid people have done. Her heart just breaks as she fervently prays for them now that they have been turned over to such a sleazy politician and those sorry administrators and teachers.

Out of government in one way, but still in the game?

The most interesting part about this whole rambling monologue is that she very clearly believes that she still is right about just about everything. There is a particular positioning here that still reminds me of her non-concession speech that she gave when Hofmeister gave her a drubbing in the Republican primary in June.

In that speech and in this set-up bit, she was implying that she is just not out of the game yet. And that should be a concern.

Back in the Summer I stumbled into the political ring when Joe Dorman’s campaign started using my post Barresi as Fallin’s Education Secretary–That OK With You? I didn’t have any particular inside knowledge and in no part of that post did I say that it was a rumor, which was what the Fallin campaign was insisting.

Instead, I simply engaged in analysis of how Barresi’s appointment to that post could strengthen Fallin’s position for resisting whoever was elected to the position next. As I said in that post, Mike Pence, governor of Indiana, had already done a very similar thing there.

After seeing this interview and looking at its similarities to her strident non-concession speech in June, I still can’t rule that out yet, especially since Fallin has not appointed a new Ed-Sec. Yes, I know that Fallin and Barresi denied that it would happen. But, for those poor kids, maybe they would change their minds.

Fallin has been in full agreement with ALEC proposals from the beginning of her administration and who else better to promote those talking points than Barresi, the ultimate puppet of ALEC.

I hope that doesn’t happen. But it could, considering how Barresi is positioning herself as the only true champion of the children of Oklahoma.

Another way to stay in the game

There could be another, more likely, way for her to stay in the game, which her comments definitely seem to be implying.

Since she is so well versed on charters, and charters in Oklahoma, she could begin to work for ALEC directly, or for the far right-wing think tank Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

She could easily go to work for the large investor-owned charter chains who tried in vain in the 2014 legislature to get a model ALEC bill passed that would allow a wide-open charter environment similar to some other states where that has passed.

She won’t go away for long

One thing for sure, it seems that this interview with the  ever-compliant Oklahoman was not just for fun or old time’s sake. She was just as combative as she ever was. And she is just as convinced as she ever was that she is right in a sea of wrong.

Instead, I am convinced that it was an “interview” of a different sort — It was a job interview for what comes next.