Editor’s Note: OKGrassroots will be releasing a feature series on Education Policy and the recent Election Cycle in Oklahoma. We will take time to explore ideological differences and how those are playing out in – not only the political realm – but the public square as well as we publish information we have collected on the ‘Teacher Caucus’. Not everyone in politics tells the truth. Not all sources are reliable. Do your own homework. Follow the money. OKGrassroots hopes these articles will help people to connect the dots and make informed choices at the ballot box. Decisions are still being made in run-offs around the state./sc
This is the sixth article in our feature series on OKGrassroots:
General Leo Baxter was appointed to the Oklahoma State School Board by Governor Mary Fallin in 2009 (apparently – no hard date could be found). The General is a native Minnesotan. Governor Keating appointed Baxter to serve on the State Board of Career and Technology Education. Governor Fallin also appointed Baxter to the Oklahoma State School Board.
According to the bio provided through the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), the General is serving or has served on a total of 16 different boards and commissions. Currently, Baxter is serving concurrent terms on both the State Board of Career and Technology Education and the OSDE Board.
General Baxter is also currently serving as a Board Member of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA).
According to that website;
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) was founded in 1993 as a public policy research organization focused primarily on state-level issues.
For more than 22 years, OCPA has conducted research and analysis of public issues in Oklahoma from a perspective of limited government, individual liberty and a free-market economy.
OCPA is a school choice proponent. Rick Cobb of okeducationtruths says that OCPA “truly want[s] to damage public education. They’ve wanted this for as long as I can remember.”
In 2014, General Baxter was one of two OSDE Board Members to sue the state of Oklahoma to prevent HB3399 – repealing Common Core in Oklahoma – from being implemented.
In early 2016, General Baxter posted a series of opinions on his personal Facebook page regarding the adoption of new Oklahoma educational standards.
ROPE (Restore Oklahoma Public Education) was organized in 2008 by two women to address issues surrounding public education. In 2009/10, they advised against passage of SQ744. In late 2015, they changed their name to Reclaim Oklahoma Parent Empowerment (ROPE2.0). There are five women currently serving as the organization’s Directors.
General Baxter’s original Facebook comments were placed into a blog by Rick Cobb of Oklahoma Education Truths:
This post was Tweeted out by Cobb and subsequently re-Tweeted by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
He also re-posted Cobb’s blog to his personal Facebook page.
In a subsequent post (now removed from public view), he says – after he has assured Representative Jason Nelson previously that “…the SDE and the Board will take up your concerns promptly” – then says “None of these will change the approved standards and implementation begins at once”.
In the Oklahoma political primary 2016, General Baxter endorsed a number of candidates for public office:
Ron Sharp was running against Brooke McGowan, given a black triangle – as ‘not supportive of public education’ – by the Teacher Caucus endorsement list. There were no reasons listed for what made candidates unsupportive of public education.
He also endorsed Toni Hasenbeck, who ran against Scooter Park in the 2014 election for Oklahoma House of Representatives – as a Democrat.
Here is Democrat leader Scott Inman praising Hasenbeck for that election in a Journal Record article called, “Democrats Target vulnerable GOP seats” by: M. Scott Carter, The journal Record July 7, 2014.
Baxter has also endorsed Adam Pugh for Senate against Paul Blair in District 41. Paul Blair was also a candidate listed with a black triangle by the Teacher Caucus endorsement list.
In a post to the closed Facebook group OPEPE, General Baxter refers again to ROPE, this time calling them ‘extremist, wrong minded and ugly enemy of public education in Oklahoma’. He then compares ROPE to Paul Blair and calls him a ‘clone of the ROPE Founder, Jenni White’. He then calls Blair, “a disaster waiting to happen.”
Though it’s not clear why Blair and ROPE are mocked, this post by Baxter to his personal Facebook page indicates that he is supportive of public education receiving more funding.
Neither does he appreciate television/radio personality Glen Beck.
The Oklahoma Ethics Commission has no apparent say on whether or not a gubernatorially-appointed official can endorse candidates for public office.
Is it ethical for a public official to endorse other candidates while openly mocking and disdaining their opponents using rhetorical language?
OSDE Board members are reimbursed – using tax dollars – for their mileage and expenses while residing on the Board. Is it appropriate for a seated public official being reimbursed with tax dollars to openly mock women – tax-payers – on a personal basis?
Is it fitting for a public official to call a woman – or group of women – personal names? What about mocking sitting legislators?
Should General Baxter still be sitting on the OSDE Board – and even involved with the standards writing procedure at all – if he sued the state of Oklahoma to stop the repeal of Common Core?
And yes there will be a test, the next time you vote!
In a series of blogs over the next few weeks, we will take time to explore these ideological differences and how those are playing out in – not only the political realm – but the public square as well as publish information we have collected on the ‘Teacher Caucus’.
For additional information see also:
To answer the call to serve as a watchmen on the wall, I have been a grassroots activist for a long time almost fifty years now (and yes I started young!). Philosophically I am a conservative, limited government freedom lover and a co-founder of R3publicans in 2008. I currently live in Oklahoma and serve as Communications Director for OKGrassroots and Constitutional Liberty Coalition but I cut my teeth on politics with Associated Conservatives of Texas and the Traveling Liberty Bell. Thank you for all you do for life and liberty too! Finding Gems & Sharing Them R3publicans OKGrassroots Constitutional Liberty Coalition