Earlier this week, Gov. Kevin Stitt gave himself an A for his first year on the job.
That’s how my kids describe their performance in the past year too.
Their teachers, when applying objective measures, say otherwise.
So just saying it doesn’t make it real.
The self-graded governor also declared this week that he should appoint the state’s superintendent instead of letting the people elect one.
Going with his desire to be in the education business, Stitt ought to go through the same A-F report card as Oklahoma public school kids.
Oklahoma is one of few states giving its schools a single, overall grade. It’s fraught with problems, but because it’s the law let’s put the governor to the same standard.
Using roughly the same measures, here’s how Stitt shakes out in the Oklahoma A-F report card.
First up is chronic absenteeism. Stitt seems to do well here. He shows up for a lot of photo ops, gives speeches, isn’t shy about answering questions and is generous with access to the press.
Stitt’s Cabinet members say he’s a force in meetings, and he’ll pop in on lawmakers or school children visiting the Capitol: A.
Next comes economic disadvantage. Stitt soars on this one, reminding us often he is a self-made millionaire who started Gateway Mortgage with one computer and a dream.
However, teachers want to see a student’s work. Some opponents have brought up some questionable business practices in other states. Like a student doing extra credit, Stitt cleared those issues up.
That’s a respectable B.
Now, the big one. Testing. About 50% of the public school grade is based on how students perform on tests taken on a single day.
I’m not certain how Stitt would fare on tests in algebra, history, biology, English, geometry and reading. There are tests unique to a governor, particularly around legislation, but an entire year is allowed to show progress.
In economics, the state is doing OK. Oil and gas are struggling some, but state coffers benefited from tax increases passed during Gov. Mary Fallin’s final year.
Teachers received modest raises and school districts got a bit more money. Not close to where it needs to be but going in the right direction: B.
Criminal justice was a mixed bag. A record number of commutations in a single day was celebrated nationally and brought Oklahoma’s incarceration rate down to No. 2.
Stitt recently approved another round of commutations, pardon and paroles to reach historic levels of releases. He also pushed the Legislature to make State Questions 780 and 781 retroactive.
But the lack of recommendations from a year-long governor’s task force were a letdown. No policy reforms were made in sentence or bail systems, court fines or in post-release community supports in mental health, jobs or stable housing.
The governor gets high marks for getting people with nonviolent crimes out of prison. Next year’s grade will be impacted by progress on keeping people out of prison and supporting those released: B-
In health care, nothing changed.
Three times more Oklahomans than necessary signed an initiative petition to put Medicaid expansion on a statewide ballot. The governor hired a consultant. Stitt gets an F here.
Stitt’s first bill as governor was to approve permitless carry of firearms, making it legal to carry guns openly with no training or background check.
I feel about as safe as before, only now I wonder if it’s a good guy who is walking into the local bakery strapped to the neck in guns.
Time will tell about the wisdom of this one. It would have been nice to have a noncontroversial law set the tone of the session: B-.
For the most part, laws around hot-button culture war issues were kept at bay. House and Senate leaders deserve credit for that too: A.
A teacher’s note: It’s an election year, and I hope no unconstitutional laws are passed to make a point or score brownie points. Those are a waste of time and distractions from core government services.
Stitt picked a few fights that should be reflected in his grade.
His tussle with the Regents for Higher Education led to the retirement of long-time Chancellor Glen Johnson. He wrestled control over the state’s five biggest agencies — the Health Care Authority, Corrections, Department of Human Services, Juvenile Affairs and Mental Health and Substance Abuse — and changed leaders in 18 state agencies.
He started a standoff with Indian tribes now in federal court and has riled voters over wanting to appoint the state superintendent. The state eventually dropped efforts to apply his executive order banning state agencies from hiring lobbyists to privately owned tag agencies.
It shows a need to sharpen diplomatic skills and work on inclusion.
In education speak, he needs to play better with others. He gets a C-.
Averaging those grades leads to an overall C (approximately). That sounds about right for a person in the first year of any job, particularly as a career change.
Stitt is an optimistic, self-assured person who sees the best possibilities in everything, leading to that A notion. That’s a good thing that can set a positive tone.
Public policy, though, requires a dose of reality. Oklahoma has a growing set of diverse constituents. Problems present and unchecked when he took office are only getting worse.
Moving forward, I hope the governor recognizes people who are not represented at his table and seeks their input to govern effectively for all Oklahomans. By widening the circle, he could push for concrete solutions and create strong ties.
It’ll only improve his grade.
Gallery: Breaking down Stitt’s first year in office