Communications & Public Affairs
Jan. 18, 2022

Wes Carter, Press Secretary
Oklahoma House Democratic Caucus
(405) 962-7674

Dems Respond to Governor’s “Guest Educator” Program

OKLAHOMA CITY — Several House Democrats released statements today after Gov. Kevin Stitt and Secretary of Education Ryan Walters announced an initiative to allow state employees to volunteer as substitute teachers.

Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-OKC:
“My heart hurts for everyone whose life has been impacted by the continued fallout from this pandemic, particularly because I know our state could have done a much better job mitigating it.

“It hurts especially for the teachers who heard the Governor’s words today and are reminded once again how little this administration thinks of their profession.”

Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City:
“No responsible business would attempt to stay open with one-third of its workforce sick and replaced by temps. I’ve volunteered in classrooms for two decades. I’ve seen firsthand what it takes to teach. Teaching is a profession and requires expertise. The Governor’s plan completely ignores providing meaningful instruction. It’s just another slap in the face of Oklahoma’s hardworking teachers. He seems determined to replace quality educators with babysitters.

“It’s telling that Governor Stitt couldn’t get a single public school to stand with him. Not even Broken Arrow, which routinely stands in lockstep with the Governor. Governor Stitt would be well served to speak with and listen to those he wants to lead.”

Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-OKC:
“I took the opportunity to be a substitute last week, and it was an incredibly humbling experience – what our teachers do on a daily basis is no easy task, especially in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. It is absolutely necessary to have qualified and trained educators in classrooms for students to get the public education they deserve.

“As I was working with students last week, I kept thinking about all of the ways we have failed students, teachers, administrators, staff members, and families across our state. Because of the lack of clear leadership from the Governor on ways to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, our schools – and ultimately our students – are all suffering.

“Shuffling around state government employees – who are also underpaid and overworked – is not a solution to a very serious challenge we face as a state: teachers are leaving the classroom because of the lack of support from their state leaders. Real solutions have been executed throughout this academic year by local school leaders and administrators – where the Governor should be seeking guidance. It is up to all of us to do the things we know will stop the spread of this COVID-19: vaccination, masking, and staying home when not feeling well or experiencing symptoms.”

Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa:
“I heard nothing in the Governor’s plan today truly new or innovative. What we could use is state-level action to minimize the impact of Omicron on our communities. We are in first place for Covid-related deaths in the nation due to the absence of any real mitigation plan, and new variants will continue to present themselves. The sooner we do that, the sooner our schools will be back to full steam.

“I am very thankful to any public or private business employees that are willing to step up and volunteer to be temporary substitutes in our classrooms. Our schools have been all hands on deck for some time now. They will welcome the help.

“The fact remains, though, that our students benefit the most from a qualified certified teacher in the classroom. Substitutes are needed for short-term help, but our teachers, whether in person or virtually, are what is key to student academic success.”

Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater:
“The Governor’s executive order addresses the question of ‘Who pays for the substitute?’ but does nothing to address the core problem: the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Allowing state employees to sub for their local school district during their contract time is a short-term solution that could have some long-term effects in regard to continuing the virus spread through the community. Our Governor’s response to the pandemic continues to lack positive results.”