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Media exposes latest grift in Stitt Administration…

6:01 AM EDT on May 3, 2022

"Fund Students Not Home Entertainment Systems!"

On Monday, a hyped-up local media exposed yet another grift in the Stitt Administration.

This time around, it involves Stitt's much-maligned Bro'cetery of Education Ryan Walters, the right-wing non-profit he manages, and $18,000,000 in federal Covid relief funding that was supposed to help support education in Oklahoma, but instead was given to private school parents with zero oversight so they could buy things like televisions, grills, smartwatches, power tools, and in one badass case, a vintage Pac-Man video game cabinet, all through a mysterious Florida-based company called "Class Wallet."

Here are some details via a collaboration between Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier:

Just get the money to families. That was the driving force behind Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan for $18 million in U.S. Department of Education relief dollars intended to help students during the coronavirus pandemic.

Other states used federal money to train new teachers or support programs for deaf and blind students. But in Oklahoma, a history teacher with political ambitions helped a Florida tech company win a no-bid state contract to rapidly distribute $8 million to families with little government oversight. Another $10 million went to private school vouchers.

With few guardrails, some families used Oklahoma’s share of federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funds to buy Christmas trees, gaming consoles, electric fireplaces and outdoor grills, an investigation by Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier has found.

Months later the teacher, Ryan Walters, was on a national stage as Stitt’s new Secretary of Education, calling the effort a success.

In all fairness, you can't blame Walters for calling the effort "a success."

Ever since he arrived on the scene a few years ago with his overly-photoshopped headshot, it's been pretty clear that his mission has been to sabotage Oklahoma public education from the inside, and make sure as much taxpayer money as possible is diverted to right-wing education grifters in the private, charter, and for-profit education sectors. Based on those factors, I guess you can say he's doing a hell of a job!

Here are more details about the scheme:

Oklahoma’s contract with the Florida-based software company ClassWallet allowed families to quickly purchase educational supplies online through grants funded with federal relief money through the Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet program.  At a virtual conference for a national school reform group in 2020, Walters touted the Bridge the Gap program as a model for how to start a school voucher program with “minimum staffing requirements and maximum quality control.”...

From the start, the strategy led to a lack of oversight on purchases, possibly violating the terms of the federal grant and state purchasing requirements, according to federal regulators.

While most parents spent the money on educational supplies, Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier found nearly half a million dollars in questionable purchases. The news organizations found at least 548 TVs purchased through ClassWallet worth $191,000.

Families also bought pressure washers, car stereo equipment, coffee makers, exercise gear and smart watches.

I don't like to defend grifters, cheats, and liars, especially the ones I'm friends with, but you can use a coffee maker for Home Ec., exercise gear for P.E., and car stereos for Bass Thumping 101. They're all easily justifiable education expenses!

In all seriousness, the obvious question here is why and how were parents able to use the money to make such ridiculous purchases? The FEDs are wondering the same thing...

Federal auditors are now investigating how the Stitt administration awarded the ClassWallet contract and distributed relief money, but the report has yet to be released.

 A U.S. Department of Education review of Bridge the Gap and the private school voucher program, Stay in School, found that Oklahoma implemented few safeguards to prevent fraud or abuse. Records obtained by Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier show the state placed no limits on what items families could purchase from vendors.

Although he loves to talk about important issues like where teenagers use the bathroom, Walters has been noticeably quiet on this topic. In fact, he hasn't recorded one video response while standing in front of his old bookshelf, or while parked in his car in an abandoned parking lot.

That could be because The Frontier / Oklahoma Watch report shows that he seems more loyal to ClassWallet and education funding grifters than the students and people of Oklahoma...

Even before Stitt named Walters Secretary of Education in September 2020, Walters had worked to secure the contract with ClassWallet, according to emails obtained by Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier.

Walters advised then-secretary of State and Education Mike Rogers on how to spend the governor’s pandemic funds and arranged a July 2020 meeting with the CEO Of ClassWallet...

Then again, another reason for Walters's silence could be that this scandal runs deeper than what's currently being reported.

I don't know what the specifics are, but I've had multiple Ogle Moles, including some Republicans, tell me "This is big and is going to get worse." In fact, when combined with the Swadley's Foggy Bottom Swindle and other state agency grifts that are now bubbling to the surface, some at the Capitol are now wondering if Governor Stitt's political career is in jeopardy.

Until then, I'd encourage you to visit either Oklahoma Watch or The Frontier – it's your pick – and read the full report. I need to get back to my vintage Pac-Man video game.

Stay with The Lost Ogle. We'll keep you advised.

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