Superintendent Ryan Walters on CCP Schools in America, Parents' Choice, and Classical Education

Oklahoma state superintendent Ryan Walters talks about a CCP Confucius Institute in Oklahoma, the ills sabotaging American K12 education, and methods to fix.
Superintendent Ryan Walters on CCP Schools in America, Parents' Choice, and Classical Education
Ryan Walters, Oklahoma state superintendent of public instruction, in Washington on Aug. 29, 2023. (Alejandro Heredia/The Epoch Times)
Jan Jekielek

A Texan nonprofit gives funding to a Chinese Communist Party-controlled (CCP) Confucius Classroom operating inside an Oklahoma High School, according to an Oklahoma superintendent and documents obtained by The Epoch Times. The CCP Confucius class, teaching American students, talks about the communist government positively while censoring the atrocities committed in its history.

Oklahoma superintendent Ryan Walters was elected with one mission: To upend a corrupted education system. In an interview with EpochTV’s "American Thought Leaders," Mr. Walters talked about the ills sabotaging the education of the next generation of Americans, in a state ranking 49th out of 50 in academic achievement.

Mr. Walters said that the Confucius Institute was "in one of our largest school districts, but also one of our least successful districts, where ... 88 percent of kids aren't reading on grade level."

The Confucius Institutes teach children that "the communist government is actually a very successful government. They actually censor what they can say about the Chinese Communist Party inside the curriculum. And so this is the Chinese government absolutely indoctrinating our kids," Mr. Walters said.

"We are putting a stop to it in Oklahoma," he added.

Mr. Walters said that 25 other Confucius classrooms operate in the United States, teaching propaganda to the American youth. The classrooms do this by positively portraying the Chinese communist government, a government guilty of genocide and nationwide suppression.

Mr. Walters said that the Confucius classrooms do not touch the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) authoritarianism, the famines, or the Tiananmen massacre, so they are not just indoctrinating, they are also censoring China’s recent history.

They say, “When you study our history, you are gonna cover it only this way,” Mr. Walters said.

The Epoch Times obtained two documents showing the establishment of a Confucius classroom at the Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The funding was provided by a Texas nonprofit, IL Texas Global, in which the Confucius Classroom Cooperation Office was operating.

The agreement mentions the “Confucius Classroom Cooperation Office at IL Texas Global,” so it is not clear if this means that IL Texas Global has its own premises.

Mr. Walters said that multiple groups sounded the alarm on this issue and found that the Texas nonprofit was taking money from the CCP.

In an email to The Epoch Times, Tulsa Public Schools denied taking money from the CCP.

“At a time when our state faces catastrophic shortages in certified teachers and school funding, Superintendent Walters has chosen to focus on a Chinese-language professional development opportunity for a single teacher,” the email reads.

"The teacher's salary and adopted instructional resources are fully paid for by Tulsa Public Schools," it continues.

Mr. Walters argued that the Confucius Classrooms undermine the view of America by saying communism is great and that capitalism is bad.

The American students in these classrooms hear that the communists “created a valid government that actually benefits the Chinese people,” according to Mr. Walters.

“Our students should be hearing that capitalism is great. That’s what made America great, what are the principles in America that allowed us to be exceptional. [The Confucius Institutes] are not only ignoring that, but, to then say that the communist principles in China right now are actually beneficial … that’s just outrageous,” Mr. Walters added.

Domestic Enemies

Mr. Walters continued to the domestic threats to students’ educational growth, saying that left indoctrination at public schools, such as the Critical Race Theory and Inclusion theories, form a complete antithesis to what America really is. “Every individual is endowed by their Creator with these inalienable rights,” Mr. Walters said, adding that the aforementioned theories are lowering students’ expectations.

“Every academic goal needs to be tied [to] the race of the individual,” Mr. Walters said. “They describe to them that because of their skin color, they might be a victim or an oppressor. Based on their skin color!”

“So when you tell a kid at a young age that because of their skin color they are a victim, or they are an oppressor, first of all, you’re creating division.

“Second of all, you are lowering expectations on them. You are literally telling a kid, ‘You can’t be successful because of the color of your skin.’ That is literally the antithesis of the principles America was founded on.”

Radical gender theories and pornographic material made their way into young students’ books in public schools, Mr. Walters said, while teachers waste time on things such as calling students by different pronouns instead of focusing on learning and the academic achievement of the students they are entrusted to them.

One of the things Mr. Walters is proud of is that Oklahoma passed school choice, meaning parents choose the school for their child, which not only empowers parents but also creates a competitive environment for schools, pushing them to increase the quality of their curricula.

Mr. Walters mentioned the establishment of a new classical learning academy in Oklahoma and a new religious charter school as potential products of the legislative move.

This new Catholic charter school faced backlash from teachers unions because unions want the money to go to public school teachers, and they generally do not want religion shaping young people’s character, according to Mr. Walters.

He mentioned seeing non-religious parents sending their children to religious schools because they like the curriculum or the character students build in this environment. This is why, as a superintendent, he thinks that the state should get out of the way, trusting and empowering the parents.

When asked about threats against schools, teachers, and himself, Mr. Walters said that these things, especially targeting children, are unconscionable, and investigative bodies are working on the threats.

Approach as Superintendent

Mr. Walters said he follows an “aggressive strategy to recruit the highest quality teachers in the country” in his duties as a superintendent.

For this purpose, Oklahoma now gives up to $50,000 as a sign-up bonus to high-quality teachers who choose to go to the most hindered areas. Mr. Walters said this move saw 800 applicants in one week as a result.

Excellent teachers in Oklahoma can make up to $100,000 per year, with success measured by looking at the academic performance and growth of students within a school year.

Mr. Walters said that unlike some schools saying they have a five- or seven-year plan to see better results in student literacy, academic achievements should be visible within one school year. He aims to have students  read better and grow as human beings more. Otherwise, Mr. Walters said, if students' reading ability remains limited, as was observed in some Oklahoma schools, they are unable to grow in any subject.

In this way, teachers are incentivized to look out for their students’ academic growth, and the “best and brightest” teachers are attracted to stay in Oklahoma public schools.

Regarding the already formed institutional culture in Oklahoma’s education, Mr. Walters said that there were top-down administrators used to  excusing their students' poor academic performance.

He gave an example in which he demanded the resignation of another superintendent in a district where children were not learning. The superintendent resigned, and Mr. Walters said that he is holding schools accountable for their students' performance. He expects to see a dramatic increase in performance within a school year.

Regarding certain individuals seeking Mr. Walters’s impeachment, he said that the left wants to control the education system.

“They know that when they control our schools they can literally create a new block of voters, a bunch of social justice warriors, to further their end goal.

“And so when I take them on directly and say, ‘Listen, I do not support teacher unions, I’m going to dramatically pull back their control. I’m going to take this indoctrination and all this left-wing activism out of our schools.’

“I am actually going to hold schools accountable and let parents leave underperforming schools. Well, this is where the Democrats are getting their money from. It’s these teachers unions, so it is literally a direct assault on their end goals. so it does not surprise me,” Mr. Walters said regarding the impeachment effort. “I’m not deterred from the fight. So when you see these leftists do these type of stunts, it tells me that I’m right over the target and that I need to keep going.”

Regarding a new classical academy opening in Oklahoma, Mr. Walters said he loves to see the emphasis on classical learning and new charter schools opening in Oklahoma.

“And what you see is as soon as these schools pop up, you have a long wait list from parents. Parents want more choices. Parents want to be more involved in their kids education. Parents want an education system that’s void of woke indoctrination, and want one that’s based in truth, that’s based in reality, that’s based in learning that they know actually puts their kids in a better position to be successful.

“And so that’s what we are going to continue to drive in Oklahoma, [we're] going to upend the education establishment, drive methods in education that we know lead to student success, and the number one way to do that is to put everything in the parents hands so they have full control of their kids’ education.”

As final notes regarding the school closures during lockdowns in the past years, Mr. Walters said it “was an incredible disservice to our kids.” This “damaged our kids severely,” Mr. Walters said, adding that “we should not be shutting down our schools in the future, and we will be fighting in Oklahoma. Our kids are going to keep learning, and we are going to keep our schools up.”