Ryan Walters calls Oklahoma teacher unions a 'terrorist organization' in Capitol hearing


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In front of an overflow crowd, Oklahoma's top education official called teacher unions "terrorist organizations" and blamed his predecessor for leaving his agency a "dumpster fire" while answering pointed questions from lawmakers for over two hours Monday at the Capitol.
State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters' most incendiary comments prompted groans from Democrats before the meeting came to an abrupt end. The House Appropriations and Budget Committee had invited Walters for an update on education issues.
The committee's vice chairperson, Rep. Ryan Martinez, gaveled for adjournment amid vocal objections from the minority party to Walters' comments.
Despite scoffs from Democrats and scrutiny from some Republicans, Walters was unapologetic in his controversial rhetoric. Teacher unions have been a frequent target of Walters', and he took his complaints up a notch when speaking to the House committee.
“I don’t negotiate with folks who would sabotage our kids," Walters said. "That’s a terrorist organization in my book.”
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State schools Superintendent Ryan Walters presents a general vision for the Oklahoma State Department of Education in a Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023, hearing with the House education budget committee

He accused teacher unions of demanding extra government funds in exchange for their cooperation with reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The state's largest teacher union, the Oklahoma Education Association, called the remarks "disgusting" and "unprofessional." Some school districts offered hazard pay or other incentives to staff "for going above and beyond" during the pandemic, but there was no such statewide initiative, the organization said.
"In less radical times, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction calling the educators who serve in our public school classrooms 'terrorists' would be shocking," OEA said in a statement. "However, this inflammatory and demonizing rhetoric continues to escalate in ways that endanger our educators and undermine public education.
"Public school educators are not getting rich off of this job. They keep their hearts and classrooms open to every single child across Oklahoma because they love their students. Comparing them to people who blow up buildings is disgusting, especially when every educator puts their life on the line to protect students as school shootings continue to rise."