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Bynum: City doesn't "want" or "need" state takeover of TPS

Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum, here during a news conference in June, said he won't comment on the pending litigation, according to his office.
Christopher Creese
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum is seen during a news conference.

On Friday, Tulsa Mayor GT Bynum spoke more directly than he has in the past few weeks about the possibility of the state taking over Tulsa Public Schools.

State superintendent Ryan Walters has said lowering or taking away TPS’ accreditation are on the table for the state board of education, which would put the district on probation or divide it up between surrounding school districts.

Walters has accused the district of financial mismanagement and low student performance, but district officials say Walters is misrepresenting information, and that they are reaching goals for improvement.

In a letter to the state board on Friday, Bynum said the city doesn’t want or need the state to take over TPS, and that district leadership is willing to work with the state.

"Given the options available to you, I do want to be unequivocally clear regarding a potential state takeover of the locally-elected Tulsa Public Schools Board or the state-mandated replacement of the Tulsa Public Schools Board-appointed superintendent: the City of Tulsa does not seek this, we do not want it, and we do not need it," his letter reads. "Such an extreme action would be an affront to the democratic principles of self-government upon which our country was founded."

In his letter, Bynum said Walters wants TPS to improve its financial reporting and adopt a more aggressive academic improvement approach. Bynum said he welcomes Walters’ calls for TPS to improve at a faster rate, and claims TPS superintendent Deborah Gist welcomes changes to the district's financial reporting.

"I’ve ... had an open line of communication with TPS leadership and with Superintendent Walters. My impression from talking with both sides in this debate is, they both want Tulsa Public Schools to be better," Bynum said after a city council meeting Aug. 9.

Bynum's letter comes after Walters and the state Department of Education have accused TPS of poor performance and mismanagement.

On Aug. 7, Walters claimed at a news conference that the district had more than $1 million in embezzled money, and that more than half of its budget goes to administrative personnel. Gist refuted these claims at the school board that night.

Three days later, the Department of Education released a video of news clips reporting on TPS' shortcomings over the years. YouTube has since removed the video after news outlets whose footage was used claimed copyright infringement.

The letter also comes after TPS School Board President Stacey Woolley claimed she had to defend the district against Walters' misinformation when discussing the matter with Bynum.

The state board of education will vote Thursday on TPS’ accreditation status.

Max Bryan is a news anchor and reporter for KWGS. A Tulsa native, Bryan worked at newspapers throughout Arkansas and in Norman before coming home to "the most underrated city in America." Several of Bryan's news stories have either led to or been cited in changes both in the public and private sectors.