Updated: This developing story was updated Monday, Jan. 8, with additional information.
Incoming State Superintendent of Schools Ryan Walters has tendered his resignation from the helm of a nonprofit whose donors include advocates for education privatization and charter schools.
Lee Denney, former state representative and current board member of Every Kid Counts Oklahoma, confirmed in a text message Sunday that Walters had resigned from the nonprofit.
The group announced Monday that it had named its director of operations Laura Hendrix as interim executive director on Jan. 5.
Walters is set to be sworn in Monday afternoon. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Following the election, Every Kid Counts Oklahoma’s board voted 3-2 to allow Walters to continue running the organization until a replacement could be found, Denney confirmed.
Every Kid Counts Oklahoma paid Walters at least $120,000 in 2021, according to records obtained by The Frontier and Oklahoma Watch. The organization reported Walters’ position as CEO as a full-time, 40-hour-a-week job. A financial disclosure form Walters filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission does not list his salary from the group.
By statute, the state superintendent of public instruction receives a salary of $124,373.
Walters won his race for state superintendent in November by nearly 15 percentage points. He campaigned on a message of helping implement private school vouchers and against critical race theory and what he called “left-wing indoctrination” in Oklahoma public schools.
Though Every Kid Counts Oklahoma does not reveal its largest donors, a joint investigation by The Frontier and Oklahoma Watch last year found that much of the organization’s funds come from national school privatization and charter school expansion advocates, including the Walton Family Foundation, the primary charitable outlet of the heirs to Walmart founder Sam Walton, and an education group founded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch.
“We are very appreciative of Ryan Walters’ 3+ years of service to EKCO and its predecessor Oklahoma Achieves and look forward to working with him in his new role as State Superintendent of Public Instruction as we work to fulfill our mission of giving every Oklahoma student a quality education,” Every Kid Counts Oklahoma said in a statement.
The Arkansas Community Foundation, a statewide charitable organization that allows donors to choose groups or projects to donate to, gave more than $1.2 million to Every Kid Counts Oklahoma in 2020 and another $1.2 million in 2021, tax records show. The grants were reported “to support EKCO’s general operations as they quarterback and broaden an education coalition of local and national partners to focus on high-quality education and reform.” Donations to EKCO were among the organization’s largest and among a few based outside of Arkansas.