People of financial means in Oklahoma City are determined to get Stanley Hupfeld elected chair of Oklahoma City Public Schools board of education.
Latest campaign finance disclosures filed last week reveal that Hupfeld has raised $105,890 compared to opponent Paula Lewis’ $26,315.
“I guess a lot of people just wanted to give me money. A lot of people wanted to see me get elected,” Hupfeld told Free Press when asked why he thought there was such a big difference.
But, Lewis sees the situation differently. She points to who is giving to Hupfeld’s campaign. His list of donors is heavily populated with the names of financial leaders in Oklahoma City.
“Most of my funding came from grass roots people, working people, parents of kids who are in school,” said Lewis.
“I doubt that many people on that list have had children in any public school at all,” she said.
The amounts spent on the race are surprising given the apparent lack of financial gain from holding a school board position.
Members are paid $25 per meeting with a maximum of $100 per month.
Seven members are elected from specific districts drawn within the sprawling school district. The eighth member is elected at large and serves as the chair.
OKCPS is the largest public school district in the state with over 40,000 students.
The list of 86 individual donors for Hupfeld included three who gave the legal maximum of $2,700 each, and one more individual who gave $2,500. Six individuals gave $1,000 to the campaign.
Donors for Lewis gave in smaller increments. The largest individual donation to Lewis’ campaign was a single $1,000 donation, with many of the individual donations being $200 or less.
Political Action Committees made up of volunteer participants from named organizations played a significant role in giving to both campaigns.
Realtor’s PAC in Oklahoma City gave the maximum $2,700 to Hupfeld with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce PAC giving $1,500.
Five PACs representing unions and trades contributed to Lewis’ campaign.
The largest contribution from those PACs was $2,500 from the American Federation of Teachers COPE, a national political action committee compiling voluntary donations from members.
The total of both PACs giving to Hupfeld came to $4,200, almost matching the $4,750 given by five PACs to Lewis.
Paula Lewis doesn’t believe that Hupfeld’s donors are giving with a current design to bring in more charter or private schools immediately, but they want to have influence on how the conversation goes if it comes up in the future.
She said the powerful donors “don’t want resistance to privatization of public schools.”
“They don’t want to have to talk about it,” said Lewis. “If they want to do it, they want to be sure that they get to do it.”
Instead, she wants to start the conversation about the formation of new schools from the standpoint of what the student needs, not what some financial interests want.
“I want kids to not be marginalized. I want everybody to have a voice. I want you as a parent to be heard, even if you don’t have any money,” Lewis said.
But Hupfeld is not trying to hide his connections to the rich and powerful in Oklahoma City. Instead, he touts those connections as channels of resources for the schools that are not being tapped at the present.
“I think I can go to the leaders of some of the larger corporations and say, ‘this is how much money we need,’ I want your people to come and mentor. I want you to pay attention,” said Hupfeld. “I’m really the only one who can do that.”
He is the chair of the Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, and says he has “raised millions of dollars for the schools.”
He also works with community-based projects to promote the Integris Family Foundations as its current chair.
When he was the president and CEO of Integris, he worked to pull corporate funding and mentoring to Western Village Elementary, helping to draw resources to it. Eventually it became Oklahoma’s first elementary charter school. Today it is named Stanley Hupfeld Academy at Western Village sponsored by Integris and authorized by OKCPS.
As the past Chair of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, Hupfeld isn’t trying to hide his connection to it at all.
“The Chamber has been a part of every bond issue. It was the reason that MAPS for Kids was passed,” said Hupfeld. “So, the Chamber is a really solid organization, and I’m proud of it, and I’m proud to be connected with it.”
Polls open Tuesday morning, April 4. Use the State Election Board Online Voter Tool to look up your voter information, polling places and times.