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$2 million contract, teacher hires questioned in subpoena of Oklahoma school chief

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Kim Jarrett

(The Center Square) - Oklahoma House Republicans want to know more about a $2 million contract with a software company and what State Superintendent of Instruction Ryan Walters is doing to help schools not performing at grade level.

The items are two of seven included in the subpoena signed by Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore, Rep. Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, chairman of the House Common Education Committee and House Speaker Charles McCall.

Walters was asked for an update on the contract with Metrics Systems in November and failed to provide the information before a November 27 deadline.

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"I am not saying they misused the money," McBride said in an interview. "They have just not put it out there to my knowledge for request for proposal on it. That's my understanding. That's what I've been told. I would like more information on that."

Also at issue is a claim by Walters that 950 teachers from out-of-state applied to teach in Oklahoma. However, specific data on the recruitment was not provided to lawmakers.

"I thought this could be impressive if this really happened and I wanted to know the recruitment process, the interview process, what subjects they teach, the degrees they hold, did they have a degree, were they certified?" McBride said. "I didn't think there was anything there that was like an 'I got your question.' That was not provided."

Walters said constituents could file complaints through an email from his former employer. He has also ignored requests from legislators to share the contents of those emails.

Legislators are also asking Walters to tell them what he is doing to address schools where students are not performing at grade level.

McBride said the Legislature had no choice but to subpoena the information. Walters has until January 5 to provide the information.

The recourse if Walters does not reply is not known at this time, McBride said.

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"I kind of feel like he wants a confrontation," McBride said. "I don't want a confrontation. I want them to stop using our children as political pawns."

In a video posted on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, Walters said he was being attacked by Democrats and members of his own party.

"I will not back down," Walters said.

House Democrats are asking for more transparency from Walters. Last week, they asked House leadership to form a bipartisan committee to explore impeachment.

House Democratic Leader Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City, said Wednesday the subpoena is a step in the right direction but wants members of both parties to have access to the information if it is received.

"We continue to have questions about the recent report about the 100 school districts that have not received federal funding approval from the Oklahoma State Department of Education – funding that is vital to many programs and jobs at school districts across our state," Munson said.