OKLAHOMA CITY — Sen. Carri Hicks cited philosophical differences as the reason she declined Thursday to carry two of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s appointments to the State Board of Education.
Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, declined to uphold the nominations of Jennifer Monies and Estela Hernandez, both of Oklahoma City.
Hicks, a former school teacher who has carried 13 of Stitt’s nominations, said she met with Monies and Hernandez to discuss their qualifications and views on public education.
“After meeting with both nominees, it is clear that I have a fundamental disagreement with them on education policy and the direction of public education in Oklahoma,” Hicks said.
Monies is senior director of public affairs for Saxum, a public relations company. She declined to comment.
Hernandez, former vice chairwoman of the Oklahoma Republican Party, could not be reached for comment.
Aaron Cooper, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, said the Senate leader could carry the nominations, which is not without precedent. Cooper said a course of action has not been determined.
On Monday, Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest released a statement on social media saying the organization is troubled by Stitt’s selections for the State Board of Education.
“This group has deep ties to charter schools, virtual charters, voucher expansion and organizations that proactively work to dismantle public education in our state,” Priest wrote. “We had hoped the governor would use this opportunity to end the (former Gov. Mary) Fallin-era strategy of punishing our public schools.
“The function of the State Board of Education is to govern public schools. We need every Oklahoman on that board to not only care about public school children but to actively protect and promote public education. Our students deserve better.”
Priest on Thursday said the remarks were mostly about Monies and Hernandez.
She said Monies has lobbied for vouchers and privatization, while Hernandez used to work for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, which “in our opinion is the most anti-public education organization in our state.”
“While OEA advocates for union members, OCPA is focused on all teachers and students and providing Oklahoma kids a great education in public schools or any other program that best meets their needs,” said Trent England, OCPA executive vice president.
Donelle Harder, a Stitt spokeswoman, said Monies and Hernandez are extremely qualified and have children in the public education system.
“Stitt’s appointments were not about politics but about people — the people who this board represents, such as parents, children and educators with diverse backgrounds and experiences in our state,” Harder said.
Three other Stitt nominations are also pending.
In other action, the full Senate confirmed nominations including:
• Paresh “Pete” Patel of Tulsa and Chad A. Phillips of Tulsa to the Board of Trustees for Oklahoma State University-Tulsa.
• Carlisha Williams Bradley of Tulsa to the State Board of Education.
• Dr. Kayse M. Shrum of Coweta as secretary of science and innovation.
• Steven W. Taylor of McAlester to the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.