OKLAHOMA CITY – An Enid lawmaker is proposing a campaign measure that would allow the governor, rather than voters, to select the state superintendent of education.
State Representative Chad Caldwell (R-Enid) said he did not know how receptive voters would be to changing the current format, which would require voter approval because it is enshrined in the state constitution. But Caldwell said he introduced joint House Resolution 1030 to give Oklahomas an option to “assert their former position or change the way we handle this position.”
Caldwell said in an email that he decided to drop the legislation after hearing feedback during the last election that the state superintendent position should “be less political.”
“If we really want the position to be less political, the best way to achieve that is by naming the position,” she said. “Most states appoint their own senior education officer rather than elect them, and obviously these types of positions are all federally appointed, so this is very common across the country.”
He said it makes sense to give the Oklahoma governor the authority to find individuals who align with their vision to achieve their administration’s priorities.
Not everyone agrees with the proposal.
“I think this is ridiculous,” Erika Wright, founder of the Oklahoma Rural Schools Coalition, said of Caldwell’s bill. “We should be doing everything we can to empower people to have a bigger voice instead of going backwards in that area.”
Wright said Oklahomas already cannot vote on who serves on their state board of education, so the bill would completely eliminate the public’s ability to elect any of the state officials charged with governing public schools. Oklahomas would only be able to elect the governor.
He said other states have appointed state superintendents, but most have an elected state school board that has the ability to hire and fire their own superintendent.
“Making a move to push Oklahoma into fully named public education system governance is laughable. It’s absolutely ridiculous that we’re having this conversation right now,” Wright said. “People need to be able to hold someone accountable for their inability to do their job, and that’s what happens with elections.”
Oklahoma is one of nine states that allows voters to elect the state superintendent and his governor to appoint members of the state board of education, according to an analysis by the States Commission on Education.
Fourteen states, including Missouri and Arkansas, allow their governors to appoint members of the state council. Those board members then hire the superintendent, the group said.
Eleven states, including Pennsylvania and Tennessee, allow the governor to appoint both state board members on education and the state superintendent, according to the group.
Seven states, including Colorado and Kansas, elect members of the state board of education and then task that board with appointing the superintendent, the group said.
The remaining nine states, including Texas and New Mexico, have “modified versions” of other states’ laws, the group said. Texas, for example, elects members of the state board of education, but the governor hires the superintendent. New Mexico has an elected body that performs an advisory role.