Ryan Walters “Bonus Bumble” latest example of his supreme and utter incompetence…
11:59 AM EST on January 31, 2024
Last year, when Ryan Walters announced that he was implementing a recruitment program to give teachers up to $50,000 to return to the classroom, I think even the biggest and most loyal Swadley’s fan expected it to be ripe with scandal, controversy, and intrigue.
I mean, what could go wrong?
We only have the unqualified poser school superintendent who oversaw the Classwallet scheme – a grift that wasted millions in public funds to give new gas grills, TVs, and Pac-Man video game cabinets to homeschool families – now running a state-backed program that gives $50,000 to new teachers that he and his administration personally vet and approve.
As a result, I think everyone assumed the first controversy would involve ghost teachers getting paid the bonus for work they didn’t do, or teachers having to complete and attend an online Prager U “Patriotic Education” seminar to claim the bonus.
Instead, Ryan threw everyone, including himself, a curve ball by approving and paying bonuses to teachers who technically didn’t qualify for the program and then coming back months later demanding they give it all back, including the amount that was taken out of their check for taxes.
Whether an incompetent mistake or an intentional act contrived to demonize teachers, it’s been the big story in the Oklahoma education beat over the past week or so.
In case you missed it...
According to Oklahoma Watch, the Department of Education overpaid at least $290,000 in teacher bonuses to nine Oklahoma teachers last year, and is now working to "claw back the money mere months after it was distributed” from teachers who have already spent it.
One of those teachers was Kristina Stadelman. She received a $50K bonus and quickly spent it on home improvement and a new car. A few months later…
“I got an email … it was like the second week of January, saying I have to pay it back by the end of February,” Stadelman said. “I’m like, how am I supposed to do that?”
The state department notified Stadelman she was not eligible for the bonus after all because she taught in an Oklahoma school district last year. According to program rules, eligible teachers cannot have taught in an Oklahoma public school during the last school year. Stadelman thought she would be eligible for it by moving to a new school in Oklahoma City. She said she misunderstood the requirements.
Stadelman listed her employment history on her application, records show. If the department had that information from the start — information that disqualified her — she said she wondered why they sent her the money in the first place.
“I don’t think it’s my mistake,” Stadelman said. “And I think that they need to take the brunt of it because they made the error.”
I love to hate on Ryan Walters as much as anyone and have lots of receipts and chode-headlines to prove it. Whether intentional or accidental, he and his administration deserve a big chunk of the blame for not reviewing and vetting applications.
That being said…
Shouldn’t the teachers be held accountable, too? I mean, if the program rules said eligible teachers could not have taught in an Oklahoma public school during the last school year, and they taught in an Oklahoma public school in the last school year, they probably shouldn’t be applying for the bonus… Right?
I, like everyone else in the local media, political ecosystem, and court of public opinion am totally content looking the other way and giving the teachers a pass here.
First of all, they're teachers who made an honest mistake. No some cheap BBQ peddler trying to scam taxpayers.
A) I like teachers, think they’ve been put through enough, and – most importantly – don’t want to be the focus of their ire and hate!
B) Ryan Walters is a shitty, terrible person, and giving teachers a big bonus, and then saying “Psyche” and forcing them to pay it back or be sent to collections, seems like a very contrived act, and is something that was probably done to distract people from real corruption going on within the program.
Ryan eventually addressed the controversy and issued a memo blaming it on, who else, teachers and the media.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters, who implemented the program, suggested in a memo sent Monday to legislative leaders that some of the errant bonuses were because teachers had “misrepresented their experience and qualifications.” He blamed the media for much of the fallout.
“The press has jumped the gun on their reporting, excluding vital details on the contracts and our auditing system,” Walters wrote in the memo, obtained by The Associated Press. “The fact of the matter is that over 500 teachers were recruited to Oklahoma classrooms through this program.”
Wow. 500 teachers got a bonus. I wonder how many of those are real teachers, and how many of them are friends and family of Ryan Walters who scored ghost-teaching gigs for some gimmicky charter school?
While the legitimate press is hopefully looking into all that, some teachers are taking the attack to Walters and suing him and the state for giving them $50,000 and then asking for it back:
A teacher from Osage County filed a lawsuit today asking for $75,000 because she is being forced to pay back a signing bonus from the state.
She named State Superintendent Ryan Walters and the State Department of Education as defendants. Walters said the woman and eight other teachers didn't qualify for the $50,000 bonuses they received.
The teacher who filed the lawsuit applied for the bonus in October, but was notified earlier this month she has to pay it all back by the end of February.
The teacher, Kharis Bojorquez, claimed her reputation was damaged, she was embarrassed and now has emotional distress. Which is why she's suing for $75,000.
Wow. If it’s not too late, I think I’m going to apply for a teaching bonus, too! Worst case scenario, I get nothing. Best case scenario, I get $50,000 with the opportunity to make even more through litigation!
Seriously, what strange times we live in.
An Oklahoma teacher was given $50,000 that they shouldn’t have received, the state asks for the money back, so the teacher sues the taste for another $75,000… and the teacher is the one we're cheering for.
As we sometimes say around here, “Only in Oklahoma!”
Anyway, I guess we’ll continue to follow this messed-up situation.
Lawmakers seem united in the idea that the teachers shouldn’t have to pay the money back, so it will be interesting to see what Ryan Langston-Walters does to milk the controversy for all it’s worth, and how he’ll connect it to wokeism, porn in schools, and kids pretending to be cats.
Stay with The Lost Ogle. We’ll keep you advised.