Thursday, February 17, 2011

Barresi Redux: New State School Superintendent Doesn't Like Oversight

The recent dustup between Republican State School Superintendent Janet Barresi and the Democratic State Board of Education can be explained as a partisan cat fight.

Indeed, that's exactly the way the GOP and many of the state's newspapers responded—blaming the Democrats for sandbagging Barresi and her top staff choices.

But there's more to this story, as The Oklahoma Observer's Arnold Hamilton has pointed out. Hamilton notes, for example, that one of the Democrats, Tulsa attorney Tim Gilpin, had asked Barresi for additional staff information in emails three times prior to the Jan. 27 meeting.

"Three times his requests went unanswered," Hamilton notes. Unsurprisingly, Gilpin and other board members were irritated at being ignored and the mood of the meeting went south fast.

Hamilton's conclusion: Barresi doesn't like the oversight of the State Board of Education, never mind that the board was established by the state Constitution and that its powers are considerable.

Contrary to the GOP narrative, the board is supposed to exercise its own judgment, not serve as a rubber stamp for whoever occupies the school superintendent's post.

Hamilton also notes that the Republicans—anxious now to abolish the Board of Education—may want to think twice. One of these days, he notes, the shoe will be on the other foot and the GOP will wish they had a GOP-controlled board looking over the shoulder of a Democratic state superintendent.

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