Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced in a video message Thursday that he is calling for a special audit of Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) for potential mishandling of public funds and said he is “also concerned that TPS may have violated state law, specifically HB 1775, which bans public schools from teaching critical race theory.”
“At the request of two Tulsa School Board members, today I am calling for a special audit of Tulsa Public Schools and the potential mishandling of public funds. As one of the largest districts in the state, TPS received over $200 million in COVID federal relief funds,” Stitt said.
According to the Republican governor, parents, students, teachers and board members,” deserve to know how that money was spent.”
“I am also concerned that TPS may have violated state law, specifically HB 1775, which bans public schools from teaching critical race theory,” he added.
Oklahoma’s HB 1775, which does not include the term “critical race theory,” is intended to stop discrimination, according to the bill. If any educator makes part of their curriculum teachings that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex” or that “an individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” they could be suspended or have their license removed, according to the law.
“Specifically, the bill prohibits teaching that “one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,” Stitt said. “I firmly believe that no, not one cent of taxpayer money should be used to define and divide young Oklahomans by their race or sex. Let’s teach students – not indoctrinate them.”
In a phone interview with CNN, Deborah A. Gist, Superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools, called the governor’s call for an audit “baseless accusations.”
“We have excellent management of funds, and there is no basis for anyone to be questioning our management of those federal dollars,” she said. “There is no evidence to support anything that he is saying.”
“I welcome anyone who wants to come and take a careful review,” Gist said.
She also called the governor’s concern that TPS may have violated state law regarding critical race theory “made up” and baseless. “It’s all baseless, we are a district that believes in teaching a full and complete history of our country,” she added.
Late last year, a group of students and educators filed a complaint challenging the Oklahoma law that restricts teaching about race and gender, in what the American Civil Liberties Union called the first federal lawsuit to challenge such a statewide ban.
The suit – backed by the ACLU, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Oklahoma state conference of the NAACP and the American Indian Movement (AIM) Indian Territory – sought to block enforcement of the law it says inhibits free speech and education of complete history through the framework of critical race theory.
Gary Peller, a professor at Georgetown Law and author of “Critical Race Consciousness: Reconsidering American Ideologies of Racial Justice,” told CNN previously that critical race theory acknowledges racism is both systemic and institutional in American society and that White people have historically held racial power.
CNN’s Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.