Ryan Walters will no longer serve as Secretary of Education, a position he held in addition to his role as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, after Gov. Kevin Stitt replaced him on Tuesday.
Walters’ path to confirmation in the state Senate was looking bleak with a number of Senators acknowledging to The Frontier it was unlikely he would get the 25 votes necessary to be confirmed. The state Senate is required to confirm the Governor’s appointments to his cabinet, and 25 votes are required in order to be confirmed.
The state Senate has until the end of session to vote on appointments.
Stitt’s decision to continue paying Walters an additional $40,000 a year as Secretary of Education drew criticism from both sides of the aisle as Walters makes just over $120,000 as state superintendent.
In a statement Tuesday, Stitt announced the appointment of Dr. Katherine Curry, an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University in the College of Education and School of Educational Studies, to be his new Secretary of Education. There was no mention of Walters in his statement.
“Katherine brings a wealth of experience to oversee the many different areas of education across the state, including higher education and career tech. I look forward to her leadership and service as we work towards making Oklahoma a Top Ten state in education,” Stitt said in the statement.
Curry said she is “excited to partner with Governor Stitt” in making education in Oklahoma Top-10.
The news that Walters had been replaced came while he was participating in a Statewide Virtual Charter School Board Meeting, where he is an ex-officio non-voting member. The board was discussing whether or not to create the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, which would have offered online classes for K-12 students. It would have created the first taxpayer-supported religious charter school in the nation. The board voted down the proposal, but a Reuters story noted the church has a 30-day window to make changes to its application.
Walters, speaking to reporters after the meeting, said he was excited to add someone to “the team,” but did not say whether he resigned or was asked to step down.
“We’re very excited to have her on the team,” he said. “The Governor and I are going to continue working to make us top 10 in every aspect of education.”
Walters was named Secretary of Education in September 2020, more than two years before he was elected as state Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Prior to his political career, Walters taught in the McAlester Public School system where he was named Teacher of the Year in 2016. Walters resigned from teaching in 2019, and transitioned to nonprofit work, serving as Executive Director of Oklahoma Achieves, a nonprofit education organization created by the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce.
He later moved to the nonprofit “Every Kid Counts Oklahoma,” where he served as executive director until stepping down earlier this year.
Walters’ school-choice views are unpopular with many educators, but the political newcomer was elected in a landslide in November, defeating educator Jena Nelson by more than 150,000 votes.