When the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) was formed in 1993, it was a big step forward in bringing fair, unbiased policymaking to Oklahoma politics. Dr. David Brown led those early years, partly driven by the desire to bring national alignment to Oklahoma’s Conservative politics. Unfortunately, the current OCPA leadership pushes conservative views on education further right. Today, OCPA members help far-right ideology thrive in Oklahoma, showing bias in the process.
OCPA does position itself as a champion of Oklahoma’s students getting the best education possible. While no reason exists to doubt this position, some believe its bias toward views of those policymakers far to the right, even beyond the state Republican platform, can influence their support of policy and appointments.
This was the case when OCPA board members publicly backed the appointment of Ryan Walters as the Oklahoma Secretary of Education. They supported Walters despite his questionable use of COVID-19 grants to buy things like televisions and barbecue grills. The OCPA publicly backs Ryan Walters in his elected role as School Superintendent.
The apparent bias toward support of anti-woke politics isn’t beyond using old-fashioned smear campaigns used to discredit opponents. Even among the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs board, there is bias and pushback as some take to social media to threaten and otherwise bully fellow members into voting in line with current right-leaning ideology.
State Democrats have virtually no voice in Oklahoma state politics as the OCPA strengthens its grip on state influence. Controversy follows them everywhere as the once-neutral state think tanks consolidate political power, all but drowning out any opposition.
Some believe the OCPA is too involved in right-wing state politics to listen to any criticism. For example, the board filed a complaint with the Oklahoma Bar Association attempting to silence their voice as an opposition to their shadowy use of education funds. The OCPA is a full-throated supporter of Superintendent Walters, mainly because he stays outspoken against woke ideology.
The social media exchange resulted from Jennifer Carter’s support of her husband, Ray Carter, and his quick choice of tech vendors to distribute federal relief funds. The usual practice includes the Secretary of Education soliciting bids for the project and choosing the best vendors only after careful consideration of board members. Under Carter’s leadership, the OCPA quickly partnered with Secretary Walters to distribute relief funds through ClassWallet.
The OCPA continues its support of right-leaning policies even as they broaden the gap between the rich and poor in Oklahoma. As critics in print point out, the bias toward Walters fostered disagreement even among the OCPA board as lawmakers tried to get to the bottom of the scandal. Board President Ray Carter supports Walters’ quick distribution of ClassWallet funds through school vouchers. Furthermore, it looks like OCPA’s support of Superintendent Walters is an attempt to hide what they do behind the scenes. While the investigation is ongoing, the amount of control an independent think tank has in the state government should alarm Oklahomans.
Like elsewhere in the country, the state government in Oklahoma is pushing back against the bubble engulfing Oklahoma politics. Governor Keating’s resignation from the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs was the most notable pushback. In a scathing and public resignation letter, the Governor stated his voice as a moderate was rendered irrelevant in state politics.