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Stitt, Walters slam 'liberal teachers' unions' in executive order

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Secretary Ryan Walters
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(From left) Oklahoma Education Secretary Ryan Walters, daughter Violet Walters, and Gov. Kevin Stitt at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City on March 30, 2022, shortly after Stitt signed into law a bill banning transgender girls and women from competing on K-12 and collegiate-level athletic teams.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and his appointed education secretary, Ryan Walters, took aim at teachers' unions Friday, issuing an executive order implying the state's public school employees' First Amendment rights are not being protected with regards to union membership.

"It is time we fight back against the liberal unions that have been keeping a stranglehold on their cut of teacher pay, and stand up for Oklahoma educators’ first amendment rights,” Stitt said in a statement.

“Teachers should know they have the freedom to opt-in not opt-out of unions," the governor said.

Union membership for public school teachers is already opt-in in Oklahoma.

Comparing voluntary union membership to a form of bondage, Walters said in a statement the order was meant to "[cut] the liberal union chains off of our teachers."

The order commands the Oklahoma State Department of Education, headed by Stitt political rival Joy Hofmeister, to annually remind educators of their existing right to opt out of union memberships.

The department declined comment on the executive order.

"We have always been an opt-in organization since our first meeting in 1889," Oklahoma Education Association President Katherine Bishop said in a statement.

"The Executive Order filed on August 19, 2022, is a baseless attack on the voices of educators ahead of an important election," Bishop said. "This only distracts from real issues like the educator shortage crisis and Oklahoma ranking 49th in education funding."

Walters is currently running against Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. April Grace in Tuesday's Republican primary for state superintendent. Hofmeister, the incumbent, announced this year she was leaving the Republican Party in order to run for governor as a Democrat. Having won the party's nomination, she will face Stitt in November's general election.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.