Gloves Come Off In Oklahoma Dept. Of Education Race

Friday, October 22nd 2010, 11:54 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- For the first time in 20 years a new face will lead Oklahoma's department of education. Three people are vying for the job. And two are going head to head in a television ad war.

News on Six puts their latest claims to the truth test.

She's a teacher turned lawmaker. And she's a dentist turned charter school pioneer.

The latest Sooner Poll says the race to become the state's next school superintendent between Janet Barresi and Susan Paddack could be the closest one heading into election day.

And the gloves have come off...

AD: "..public schools should be open to all children. But Janet Barresi started an elite school that keeps kids out."

Susan Paddack's campaign is behind this ad which implies that Barresi's charter schools aren't open to everyone.

Barresi and other concerned parents started two charter schools... Independence Middle School and Harding Preparatory in Oklahoma City.

Both schools' admissions are based on a lottery system.

AD: "…children of Barresi's wealthy friends were admitted, other children were not."

Barresi's campaign says it's true.. the children of the school's founders are automatically admitted. But a campaign spokesperson says the folks who helped start these schools aren't "wealthy friends" like the ad claims... but just "ordinary people."

Harding Preparatory is elite in that it's been recognized by U-S News and World Report as one of the top schools in the country.

And according to the schools' profiles, each of them has less than half of their students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.

That makes their student body significantly better off than most Oklahoma City students, where 88-percent of them are on free or reduced lunch.

The Paddack ad also claims that Barresi evicted disabled and special needs kids to make more room for her charter school.

The Barresi camp calls this part of the ad slanderous and say all of her charter schools are in once-abandoned Oklahoma City Public School buildings.

In a statement, the Barresi campaign says at no time was any one evicted. News On 6 was not able to verify the accusation. And the Paddack campaign has not returned our calls or emails.