Dismayed Oklahoma voters keep rejecting their candidates, so Democrats are trying a new tactic: Proposing barriers to prevent Republican candidates from holding an office.
State Rep. Curtis McDaniel, D-Smithville, filed a bill to require candidates for state schools superintendent to have completed a standard master's degree and a program in education administration approved by the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation, with an emphasis on district-level leadership skills.
As it happens, McDaniel meets those qualifications. State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, a Republican, falls just short. What an amazing, nonpartisan, purely policy-driven coincidence!
Barresi has a master's degree in education. She founded two successful charter schools and worked in public schools as a speech pathologist. Voters were aware of her background when they elected her, but McDaniel still thinks they need his “help” selecting qualified candidates.
This bill isn't serious. It's punitive. It's as cynical as requiring the state treasurer to have a Harvard MBA or requiring the insurance commissioner to be CLEET-certified, the labor commissioner to be an OB-GYN or the lieutenant governor to be a retired military officer. It's not surprising McDaniel also thinks local school boards should handle their own students' graduation appeals instead of the state, allowing districts to sweep failures under the rug.
Other than generating partisan theatrics, McDaniel clearly hasn't thought this through. Here's another person likely unqualified for the state superintendent's office under his bill: 2010 Democratic nominee Susan Paddack, a former science teacher (not administrator) whose teaching career was spent mostly in Colorado and Texas.
Another potentially “unqualified” candidate: Former Superintendent Sandy Garrett, a Democrat, who had been a classroom teacher and programs coordinator in Muskogee County schools, not a district head.
McDaniel should be careful what he wishes for. In blatantly going after Barresi, you may disqualify your fellow Democrats.