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Candidates for Superintendent Share Several Similarities in Their Platforms

Matt Trotter

It’s down to John Cox and Joy Hofmeister in the race for state superintendent of public instruction.

Cox, the Democrat, is currently the superintendent of Peggs Public Schools. He’s been in public education 29 years, 21 of those years as a school superintendent.

Joy Hofmesiter is the Republican. She's CEO of Kumon Math and Reading Centers of South Tulsa and served on the state board of education for just over a year.

The candidates came to Tulsa for a forum yesterday, and the candidates' similarities started to show when moderator Elaine Dodd lobbed them a softball to begin.

"What book or books are you currently reading? And are you reading that book by tablet or the old-fashioned way?" Dodd asked.

Nobody admitted to leisure time.

"Well, I’m actually reading a case study book right now ... out of Oklahoma City," Cox said. "[It's] a case study on using standardized tests with their students and the environment that that’s creating."

"I’m actually rereading Mindset, which was part of master’s work," Hofmeister said.

Both paperback, by the way. It became a theme: Very similar statements with minor differences, if any. Hofmeister and Cox are willing to tell legislators, "No more funding cuts," albeit in slightly different ways.

"I believe we must convince them and show them what we have done successfully with the funds that have been entrusted to public education," Hofmeister said.

"This is about giving you a voice that you can come right along with me and you can say, 'We need more funding for education,'" Cox said.

The candidates want to keep pension plans for teachers because of low wages.

"I don’t know how we can entice young people to come into the system and say, 'We’re going to give you a 401k plan' and not have something that is secure," Cox said. "That secure plan was made for us to at least have something — at low wage as a teacher coming up through the ranks — to know we have something at the end."

"They don’t get paid enough money to be able to effectively take care of this, even though there are well-understood arguments about portability, and that can be attractive," Hofmeister said.

Hofmeister and Cox want to do away with the A–F system of school grading.

"We cannot let someone label and reduce to a single indicator all of the work that is being done in our schools," Hofmeister said.

"We can’t make a child sit down and do a test. We can give opportunity to learn to put it on a test," Cox said.

And neither candidate is satisfied with how special-needs students are treated in the standardized testing process.

"What I plan on doing is actually pulling those children out of the assessment process, allow the individual education plan to be the growth model for them, because that’s what it is. That’s what we use it for," Cox said.

"Students who qualify should have those closest to them, who know that child best, making the kinds of goals and decisions to best instruct that child," Hofmeister said.

The biggest difference between Cox and Hofmeister may be their stances on end-of-instruction testing.

"I really believe in the teacher in the classroom, and if a child earns a grade in that classroom, that’s what they deserve. They don’t need to take a test," Cox said. "So I’ve been out there saying we really need to eliminate end-of-instruction tests."

"It is not appropriate to just think that it can be so simply solved by saying that we need to have a moratorium on testing on the EOIs," Hofmeister said.

Before the candidates’ closing statements, however, Dodd decided there was one more similarity.

"I am assured that on Nov. 4, we will be in better shape regardless of which candidate is elected state superintendent of public instruction," Dodd said.

The last similarity: The candidates want voters to put children first.