Dr. Ivan Holmes has thrown his hat into the ring to supplant Janet Barresi as Oklahoma State Department State Superintendent.
Holmes has a vast resume of experience in education, with classroom experience ranging from the high school to university level. He has served as chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, as well as the Oklahoma State University Board of Regents and Education Commissioner of the States.
A published author, Holmes is running under the campaign theme "With Everyone in the Loop — KIDS WIN!" Should he win, his priorities involve having educators involved in the decision-making process. And it all starts with communication.
Holmes said he has visited 110 superintendents across the state in an effort to gain a consensus about the current state of education.
"I wanted to find out if all the horror stories were true," he said. "The first complaint is there is no communication between the state and the superintendents. They are lucky to get a recording and, if they do, it takes several days to get a call back. And to get an answer takes longer. The second is the grading system. Everyone says it is flawed, even the schools that receive A's. There is inconsistence with some schools receiving A's in the elementary and high schools, and then getting an F in the middle schools."
Holmes also said there are concerns regarding the implementation of Common Core.
"It's impossible to teach," Holmes said.
Holmes said a problem with testing is it does not gauge the amount of progress from the beginning of the year to the end. Holmes cited his personal background in education when downplaying the importance of standardized tests.
"I'm not good at standardized tests, and I have a doctorate," he said. "Superintendents say, 'We are not against accountability, but let's develop a criteria'."
Holmes said the legislature has not done much to help education, and said the state ranks first in the nation in education cuts and 49th in spending. He also said it is troubling the state has taken $200 million away from education gained through the lottery because of the recession, and has withheld it despite growth in the economy.
"We have a governor that says she supports education, but how can she say she is for education," Holmes said. "The State Chamber of Commerce also wants to do away with rural schools, and they want to bleed funds from them to do that."
Holmes also is wary of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which he linked to the State Chamber of Commerce.
"ALEC has a goal to have charter schools replace public schools," Holmes said.
In a press release announcing his candidacy, Holmes said, "If they have their way, all public schools would become charter schools and the public education system we have today would be gone tomorrow. Parents are being told that public schools are failing their children, that teachers are bad, the we need to fire teachers and start over with charter schools."
Holmes said he is not against charter schools, but does not believe they should use public funds. He also said they need to be more transparent.
If elected, Holmes said he would increase public funding, remove ALEC from education, and give educators control of education. He also said he would take the salary given to the office and put it in grants. And it would all start with rebuilding relationships between the state and the schools.
"Right now, the role of the superintendent is adversarial," Holmes said.