Oklahoma schools chief to announce plan to ban DEI in Sooner State’s public schools

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FIRST ON FOX Oklahoma could soon become the first state to ban diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs from its public school system. 

At a meeting of the state board of education on Thursday afternoon, Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters is to introduce initiatives that will eliminate all DEI programs, “drag queen”-related activities, and stop any funding or staffing that contribute to those programs. 

“What we’ve seen is the most radical, [Marxists] push woke ideology through DEI programs,” state Superintendent Ryan Walters told Fox News Digital in an interview, adding that such programs have detracted from students’ learning and education.

“We do not want kids to be told that they are oppressors or victims based on their skin color. We instead want our kids to be told that they are each individually created by God, and they can do great things, and that’s up to them as individuals,” said Walters. 


Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki/File)

Walters added that DEI programs should instead be termed “divide, exclude and indoctrinate” programs.

“We’re going to continue to make sure that our kids are not part of a Marxist game through our K-12 system and instead are taught about our founding and American exceptionalism. And part of that is getting rid of all DEI programs,” said Walters.

“These programs [are] being used to project into all aspects of a K-12 school system,” he said, adding that the aim for eliminating DEI is for the schools to hire teachers and fund positions “based on achievement.”

“Holistically, we are going to not allow any kind of DEI programs in our schools so that we can get back focused to academics, achievement and outcomes rather than dividing, excluding and indoctrinating,” he said.

“We’re very proud to be leading the effort and fighting back against the woke ideology being pushed into our schools.”

Walters said that Tulsa public schools, which were the lowest performing schools in the state, were the first in the state to teach critical race theory.

“That’s not a coincidence,” Walters said.


Oklahoma State Capitol building

The Oklahoma State Capitol (Getty Images)

“If you tell kids that they are oppressors or victims and that they can’t achieve things because American society is racist, and they can never accomplish what they want … they’re not going to try as hard in school, they’re going to be depressed, they are going to be divided with their classmates.”

Walters said that while teachers unions have come out against the plan and even threatened to attempt to impeach him with the help of Democrats in the legislature, most parents and taxpayers are supportive of the plan.

“We’re very proud to be leading the effort and fighting back against the woke ideology being pushed into our schools,” said Walters.

Walters’ move comes on the heels of Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt’s executive order earlier this month requiring the state’s higher education agencies “to initiate a review of DEI positions, departments, activities, procedures, and programs to eliminate and dismiss non-critical personnel.”

“Diversity is an asset that shouldn’t be abused to advance a political agenda,” Stitt said in a Dec. 13 post on X defending the measure. “That’s why my executive order calls on state agencies and higher ed to review their DEI practices. We’re taking politics out of education and focusing on preparing students for the workforce.”


empty desks in classroom in stock photo

Oklahoma is becoming the first state to ban diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs from its public school system.  (iStock)

Earlier this year, Oklahoma also passed two bills that would give parents a tax credit up to $5,000 per child that opts to attend private school, and a $2,500 credit for students educated by other means, like homeschooling.

Recently passed legislation also includes a $500 million increase in funding for public schools throughout the state that will also fund $2,500 minimum pay raises for every teacher not designated as an administrator, $50 million to schools receiving below-average funding from annual local tax revenue, and $300 million to be distributed to public school districts on a per-pupil basis.

The first bill that offers tax credits also includes a provision allowing parents to request an advance on the tax credit to help pay for the upcoming semester. This bill passed the state House of Representatives on Wednesday in a 75-25 vote.


The second bill outlines how the appropriated monies can be spent, including on teacher and support staff raises, STEM programs, instructional materials, fees for nationally standardized assessments, summer education programs, after-school programs, student support services, or tuition and fees for concurrent enrollment.

The program, which went into effect this week, has already seen 30,000 applicants, Walters said. 

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