EL RENO, Okla. (KFOR) – El Reno Schools Superintendent Craig McVay fired back at Oklahoma Secretary of Education Ryan Walters Tuesday on Twitter, following a letter Walters posted to social media telling textbook publishers that operate in the state to reconsider any content in their materials that may contain critical race theory.
In his directive, Walters cited HB 1775, also known as Oklahoma’s “Anti-Critical Race Theory Law,” which was signed by Gov. Kevin Stitt in May 2021.
According to the bill,
“No enrolled student of an institution of higher education within The Oklahoma State System of Higher Education shall be required to engage in any form of mandatory gender or sexual diversity training or counseling; provided, voluntary counseling shall not be prohibited. Any orientation or requirement that presents any form of race or sex stereotyping or a bias on the basis of race or sex shall be prohibited.”
Oklahoma House Bill 1775
The Oklahoma State Department of Education adopted the guidance for the law earlier this year.
In the letter by Walters, dated May 10, 2022, Walters referred back to HB 1775, a bill signed by Stitt in May 2021, restricting Oklahoma schools from teaching critical race theory.
“Due to the passage of this bill, no public school districts, charter schools, or virtual charter schools in the State of Oklahoma will be allowed to purchase materials that promote race or sex-based discriminatory acts,” read the letter. “If you intend to continue doing business with Oklahoma schools, I ask that you review your materials and edit is as needed to ensure that any textbooks intended to be sold to our schools align with the standards laid out in HB 1775.”
In a recorded response dated May 12, 2022, El Reno Schools Superintendent Craig McVay denounced the letter, calling the secretary “paranoid.”
McVay reiterated his perspective to KFOR on Friday, calling Walters’s vernacular “incendiary” and not helpful or necessary
“I responded to what I felt like was election pandering and not necessary,” said the longtime school educator. “Having a car video that slams public schools is not a unification deal.
“Everyone in Oklahoma knows that CRT is not an Oklahoma taught public school standard.
“It’s not a liberal issue, it’s not a conservative issue, it’s not an issue,” he said, also telling KFOR that Secretary Walters has not attempted to connect with him since the Twitter exchange, nor has he ever communicated with him regarding the state of El Reno Public Schools.
The state of Oklahoma is one of a few states that uses an independent committee appointed by the governor for its textbook adoption process, and is comprised of parents, teachers and community members.
“Unlike many states, the Oklahoma State Department of Education, by law, has a very limited role in the textbook adoption process. The State Department of Education assists the State Textbook Committee in scheduling and securing facilities for meetings, facilitates an interactive forum between the publishers and the State Textbook Committee, and provides guidance to schools about the process for purchasing instructional materials.”
Oklahoma State Textbook Committee website
According to the committee’s website, Secretary of Education Ryan Walters is not a member of that group.
In a statement to KFOR Friday, a representative for Walters stated that the letter had been sent via email to around 300 different publishers that have provided their information to the state.
“We do not want our children in Oklahoma to be taught using Critical Race Theory,” read the email from consultant Matt Langston, on behalf of Walters. “Any textbook publisher needs to ensure they do not violate our state law; HB1775.”
Additional questions sent by KFOR asking Walters to confirm if he had specific evidence of critical race theory from textbooks currently being used in state curricula were not answered.
“There are 700,000 kids in Oklahoma that need everyone of us to be the best we can be for them,” said McVay, while calling for greater accountability for the state’s public school system.
“I have five granddaughters and I want them to get what I got – which was a great public education,” he added. “A little bit of integrity, a little bit of honesty. I think a little bit of transparency goes a long way.”
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