State Superintendent Ryan Walters informed the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education this week of a new review of its 10-year spending history on and current materials used for diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, programs.
In a letter sent Monday, Walters gave Chancellor Allison Garrett a deadline of Feb. 1 to respond.
“Please provide a full outline and review of every dollar that has been spent over the last 10 years on diversity, equity, inclusion. Additionally, I want an overview of your staffing and the colleges underneath your oversight as the Chancellor of Oklahoma Higher Regents within every DEI program … and expenditures,” Walters wrote on letterhead of the Office of the Secretary of Education. “Lastly, please provide a copy of the materials that are being used in any of these programs.”
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The label “diversity, equity and inclusion” describes programs and policies that encourage representation and participation of people of different genders, races, ethnicities, abilities and disabilities, religions, cultures, ages and sexual orientation, as well as diverse backgrounds, experience, skills and expertise.
The Tulsa World obtained a copy of Monday’s letter, which was undated, and confirmed its authenticity and date sent with a Walters spokesman.
“The purpose of the letter is to provide transparency in budgeting and to have a better understanding of where dollars are being spent and to determine if that’s the right direction for higher ed,” said Matt Langston, the spokesman. “Secretary Walters has requested additional information on diversity, equity, inclusion programs to fully understand the extent of indoctrination happening in higher education.”
Walters was appointed to the education secretary position in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Cabinet in 2020 and then was elected state superintendent in November. His signature on the letter lists both titles.
Throughout his campaign and in social media posts that have continued since he was sworn in this month, Walters has said his top governance priority is ridding public education of “liberal indoctrination,” and he has specifically criticized DEI training for employees.
In October, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education voted to request $986 million in state funding for fiscal year 2024, which reflects an increase of $105.1 million, 11.9% over the fiscal year 2023 adjusted appropriation of $880.9 million.
Chancellor Garrett presented the request in a legislative hearing at the state Capitol on Tuesday.
Garrett is CEO of a state system comprising 25 state colleges and universities, 11 constituent agencies, one university center, and independent colleges and universities coordinated with the state system. She reports to a constitutional board whose nine members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
On Thursday, Walters is expected to present to a newly reconstituted Oklahoma State Board of Education a spending plan for prekindergarten through 12th grade public schools that is different from the $3.6 billion request approved under former State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. Once approved, he will be expected to present that request to the Oklahoma Legislature, as well.
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