By Tim Farley
A group that purportedly supports public education endorsed a House District 47 candidate who sends his children to private school.
Brian Hill, a Republican seeking the seat vacated by Leslie Osborne, did not return a telephone call for comment. Hill’s resume shows he has no experience in the education field.
The education group, known as Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education (OKPEPE), sided with Hill against Republican Beverly Adams, who was a public school physical education teacher for 17 years.
Adams contacted the group about their failure to endorse her, but representatives from the organization failed to contact her for nearly two days.
“They told me I didn’t do enough for education,” she said.
On its website, OKPEPE places an apple by the candidate’s name it is endorsing. Failing to receive the apple by her name was confusing for Adams, but she’s moved on with her campaign. On Thursday, she was speaking before a luncheon crowd in Tuttle.
“They have no pull or weight at the Capitol,” Adams said. “They’ve given apples to people who didn’t deserve it. My opponent has children in private schools but advocates for public schools. They’re just one group and they don’t live in my district. What’s important is that my constituents appreciate my background. I’m proud of what I’ve done and will advocate for teachers. Yes, it chapped my hide but I’m more concerned with what the voters think.”
After reviewing notes about Adams, OKPEPE spokeswoman Angela Clark Little said Adams did not receive the endorsement because she favors charter schools and vouchers and does not support a tax increase.
“We had to reach out to teachers in the area (of House District 47) and they didn’t want us to support Beverly,” Little said.
Adams explained she does not support the voucher system in its present form because they are limited to special education students only.
“If it benefited every child then I would be for it,” she acknowledged.
Adams also admitted she supports charter schools because students have the ability to learn better in those environments. Adams said her message about taxes was twisted.
“I’m against an income tax increase but would support an increase in the gross production tax,” she said.
Meanwhile, Hill reportedly is “100 percent” against vouchers and is part of the Youth for Christ movement in the Oklahoma City metro area, according to Little. Little said Hill sending his children to private schools was not considered a negative factor in determining the group’s endorsement.
“How can you support public education and at the same time send your children to private school”? Adams asked. “You will not find anything about his (Hill’s) children in his campaign material and where they go to school. He’s trying to hide something.”
Little, on the other hand, said the public-private school issue shouldn’t be part of the campaign.
“We don’t hate private schools,” she said. “We just don’t think the public school money should flow through to the private schools. It’s not a war of public versus private. But if you’re taking money away from the public school system, then that’s a deal breaker.”
Little also said Hill had the support of former Mustang Superintendent Sean McDaniel.
In races like District 47, Little said candidates are evaluated based on their advocacy for public education, if they’re a viable candidate, voting frequency and professional and personal references. Incumbents are evaluated largely on their voting record, but in this year’s District 47 campaign there is no incumbent.
There is no point system from the criteria the group uses, Little said.
Little described OKPEPE as a grassroots organization that began in 2016 and took credit for helping candidates win election at that time.
“I hope we’re influential with the people in our (Facebook) group, which is about 35,000 members,” she said. “But we’re really small potatoes.”
After the interview with the Yukon Progress, Little spoke on an Oklahoma City radio show with state Sen. A.J. Griffin who heralded OKPEPE as an organization that makes a difference in public education.