With less than 30 days before the primary election for state superintendent, there was a war of words between incumbent Janet Barresi and Republican challenger Joy Hofmeister. The two faced off in Muskogee.
The forum wasn't a debate, but it certainly highlighted differences between the candidates. Hofmeister often criticized the superintendent's leadership. Barresi admitted to problems plaguing schools, but she highlighted the positives of the last four years.
Other than a passing glance at each other, the candidates for Oklahoma's state superintendent didn't address each other.
During the hour forum, Barresi and Hofmeister were polite and composed while they tackled the issues of Oklahoma's schools. The state's A through F grading system highlighted their different views.
"It's important that all of us understand how our schools are doing so we can be a part of the conversation on how to continually improve them," Barresi said.
Hofmeister said, "A school with a failing grade. We don't know what that is do we, because we have a system that is not accurate. It's not valid. It is not reliable."
Failing schools aside, nationally the state consistently ranks at the bottom of polls for quality education.
Hofmeister said giving districts local control to address needs is the answer. Barresi said it boils down to teacher training.
"We have to provide what is needed to achieve it. We have continued under our state superintendent to centralize decision making power and funds at the state department of education. We need to have more dollars in this formula flowing to the classroom," Hofmeister said.
"We have had a state reading sufficiency act that is our reading bill for 17 years. We also know a lot of the components were not implemented correctly or implemented with fidelity," Barresi said. "We are going to continue doing that and support teachers in teaching reading in the classroom."
Both women support the governor's initiative of allowing local school districts to put storm shelters in schools.
One Republican candidate in the race, Brian Kelley, did not attend Tuesday's forum.
There are also four Democratic candidates on the June ballot.