With the bombshell reporting by Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier on the digital diversion of federal pandemic funding earmarked for education, the stories are getting worse about Gov. Kevin Stitt. We should all strap in for more stories of governmental malfeasance, wasteful and incorrect expenditures, and the governor’s dead-eyed, cult-like zeal to end public education in Oklahoma.
The first-rate journalism by Jennifer Palmer, Clifton Adcock, and Reese Gorman is earning raves at the national level. According to the report, $8 million in federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds earmarked for families to pay for school equipment and supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic were often spent on TVs, appliances and car stereos using a Florida-based financial app called ClassWallet.
The balance of the $18 million received by Oklahoma went to school voucher programs.
OPINION by George Lang
This is a two-pronged state government disaster: allowing the misuse of emergency funds for “big game” purchases and systematically plundering the state’s public education system to bolster for-profit education in Oklahoma. There is probably more coming, just as there was in last week’s Swadley’s Foggy Bottom Kitchen scandal when Stitt denied he even knew CEO Brent Swadley.
I’m a little in awe of the methodology used in reporting the financial elements of this story. The reporters showed generosity in defining what constituted educational purchases, which made the revelations all the more compelling.
Although undoubtedly some of these items were purchased as part of a “We’re going to Best Buy!” windfall shopping spree, the journalists included computers, laptops, tablets, headphones, most chairs, tables, desks and even game systems as education expenses, all in the service of isolating ClassWallet purchases that were definitely, absolutely not educational.
These included dishwashers, car amplifiers, home theater equipment, brad nailers and air compressors, scooters and a vintage Pac-Man arcade game. Oh, and at least 548 televisions that total around $191,000.
Now, I’m not shocked that some Oklahoma parents sold out their kids’ education for an air fryer or a new washer and dryer set while shouting “Let’s Go Brandon” to anyone within earshot. What’s completely inexcusable is that Stitt and Secretary of Education (Broheim Division) Ryan Walters did not put any safeguards on the system to keep people from abusing it. Instead of helping kids, Stitt “made it rain.”
Furthermore, the ClassWallet deal was yet another no-bid state contract, just like Swadley’s. Bids are put out in order to level the playing field among possible vendors. A former McAlester Public Schools teacher with political ambitions and a mid-’10s Richard Spencer haircut arranged the deal. Just a few months later, Walters became the Oklahoma secretary of education, a cabinet position in which the primary duties appear to be harassing public school systems while repeating Corey DeAngelis’ pro-voucher talking points in increasingly shrill social media posts.
Stitt spokesperson Carly Atchison offered a testy written response to the reporters’ questions.
“During the COVID pandemic, Governor Stitt had a duty to get federal relief funds to students and families in Oklahoma as quickly as possible and he accomplished just that,” Atchison said.
Having spent several minutes with this statement poring over every word, I can say that, technically, Atchison did not lie. But the earmark was for education supplies, not the refrigerators and meat smokers that were bought.
Wait a second… meat smokers? Are Stitt scandals starting to converge?
Last Updated May 5, 2022, 2:36 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor