2nd Teacher Joins Defamation Lawsuit Against Ryan Walters Over Teacher Bonus Program Allegations

A second teacher who earned a $50,000 bonus from the Oklahoma State Department of Education in error has filed a complaint against the agency and state school Superintendent Ryan Walters, accusing the State Education Department of breach of contract and Walters of defamation.

Kristina Stadelman, an Oklahoma City resident, has joined the complaint brought earlier this week in Oklahoma County District Court by Kharis “Kay” Bojorquez, an Osage County resident and Epic Charter Schools teacher. No hearings have been scheduled in the case, which has been assigned to District Judge Richard Ogden.

Dan Isett, a spokesperson for the state Education Department and Walters, did not immediately reply to inquiries about the case.

Last week, the nonprofit journalism organizations Oklahoma Watch and StateImpact Oklahoma revealed that at least nine teachers had gotten letters from the state Education Department asking that they repay all or sections of the incentives they earned by the end of February. Bonus amounts varied from $15,000 to $50,000.

2nd Teacher Joins Defamation Lawsuit Against Ryan Walters Over Teacher Bonus Program Allegations

According to news sources, at least $290,000 was overpaid to teachers who were either ineligible for the bonus or eligible for a smaller amount. Walters has now stated that the number of teachers affected was four, although news organizations displayed paperwork indicating that Isett confirmed the number was nine.

The agency’s attempts to claw back thousands of dollars from teachers as a result of the faults in incentive distribution have drawn negative feedback from MPs.

Walters maintains that federal regulations require the agency to do so. Days after the initial report was released, he stated that attempts are underway to work “with these individuals to find a path forward for them” in repaying the money, but he¬†has not provided any details.

Ryan Walters denies involvement in mistakenly issued teacher incentives.

Walters has repeatedly refused to accept responsibility for the failures on behalf of the state Education Department. In a memo to Oklahoma House of Representatives Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and state Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, he accused “several teachers” of misrepresenting their expertise and qualifications.

Later, Walters held a news conference in the state Capitol media chamber, claiming that members of the media “actively lie” about his work with the state Education Department and the integrity of the incentive scheme.

2nd Teacher Joins Defamation Lawsuit Against Ryan Walters Over Teacher Bonus Program Allegations

He also questioned some media sources’ coverage of the program’s issues, calling it “inaccurate” and “premature.” Despite being given several opportunities to do so during the news conference, Walters did not point out specific inaccuracies in reporting by any particular outlet.

Walters has stressed what he believes is the success of the bonus scheme. In his memo to lawmakers, he stated that more than “500 teachers were recruited to Oklahoma classrooms through this program.” This has been the most successful teacher recruiting project in state history, and I am incredibly pleased with my team’s efforts in designing, establishing, and implementing this program in such a short period of time.

In their case, Bojorquez and Stadelman claim Walters defamed them by accusing them of lying on their applications. The complaint wants more than $75,000 in damages from Walters for both professors.

It also seeks a finding against the state Education Department that the teachers should not be required to reimburse the incentive. The lawsuit claims that the agency’s attempt to recover the money is in “bad faith” and that it is punishing the teachers for its “own alleged negligence or malfeasance” in awarding the money¬†incorrectly.

The complaint is one of at least seven filed against Walters in federal or state court by Oklahoma teachers, school districts, and former department workers.


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