Casing the Joint Through Public Education
How to Steal a State: Season 1
Joy Hofmeister quietly emerged on the statewide political scene in Oklahoma when she was appointed to the State Board of Education by then Governor Mary Fallin (R), in January of 2012. If you’ll recall, this was the period in which entrenched Democrat and Republican politicians finally came to agree on a common and primary goal of silencing and eliminating the Tea Party Movement, a growing voice for citizens. Voters across the country were pushing back on bloated government spending and bureaucracy, failing public education and lifelong political and bureaucratic officeholders, and the Tea Party was leading the charge.
Oklahoma was no exception. In November of 2010, the Oklahoma voters passed lifetime term limits of eight years for a host of the highest offices in state government, including governor and lieutenant governor, auditor, attorney general, treasurer, labor and insurance commissioners, and state superintendent of public instruction. Oklahomans wanted change, and that meant clearing out the entrenched incompetency at the state capitol. At the same time, voters elected the first ever Republican, Janet Barresi, to the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction, an office previously held exclusively by Democrats since the inception of the seat in 1907. The people were demanding an overhaul of public education, and Janet Barresi was serious about making that happen.
Barresi, a former teacher, speech pathologist and dentist, had successfully established Oklahoma’s first and second public charter schools in response to the passing of the state’s landmark charter school bill in 1999. These two charter schools continue to operate today. Parents began to have options for exiting failing public schools in grossly underperforming Oklahoma City and were taking public funding with them.
While Democrats had comfortably owned the chronically underperforming Oklahoma public school system for a century, this is where the reader will need to leave their understanding of the two-party political system behind. It was what we’ll refer to as the ruling class, a combination of Democrat and Republican office holders, bureaucrats, heavy-hitting unions representing teachers and highly paid school administrators, and wealthy ideologues, who locked arms in their mutual distain for Barresi and against the agenda of the Oklahoma people and the Tea Party. This was the moment political battling in Oklahoma clearly became class warfare, with the ruling class working against the interests of the rural and lower-income urban residents. This tale is about much more than public education in one state. The Oklahoma public school system was merely the breach and entry point for a much larger takeover attempt.
Sparks flew the minute Barresi took over the State Superintendent’s office in January of 2011, and the local media jumped on board to distort and vilify her efforts to reform public education through performance-based funding, new academic standards and student testing. Frequently referring to Barresi as “embattled” or “controversial”, the media did the bidding of the ruling class by focusing the attention of parents on a contrived boogey man called Common Core, deemed larger and more dangerous to children than the state’s significantly underperforming schools.
Common Core is a set of academic standards in math and language arts supported by Barresi as a tool for school performance evaluation and improvement. Barresi was particularly concerned about the low literacy levels among Oklahomans and advocated for student testing and interventions in this area. The media megaphone successfully convinced parents across the state that implementing Common Core would be devastating to their children’s education, and the teachers’ union (OEA) and school administrators’ union (CCOSA) were in full agreement. After all, we simply can’t have teacher accountability based on any solid performance measures. All teachers, exceptional or underperforming, are apparently to be respected and praised, regardless of the outcomes for children.
Barresi was a proponent of accountability and allowing parents to take their allotted funding elsewhere if local schools were failing their children, both taboo opinions in the world of public education. School vouchers are public school kryptonite, representing the ultimate loss of control for school districts and the public education juggernaut. If state educational leaders had spent half the effort on improving core education in public schools as they have in fighting against accountability and vouchers, they might actually have something of substance to toot from their ever-sounding horns.
Less than a year into Barresi’s tenure, Republican Joy Hofmeister, a former teacher and operational head of her family’s three franchised Kumon tutoring centers in the Tulsa area, was recruited and appointed to the Oklahoma State Board of Education by then Governor Mary Fallin (R). While it’s tempting to assume a Republican Governor would appoint someone to the board controlling statewide public education who would support the education reform agenda of a newly-elected, fellow Republican like Barresi, remember that the paradigm had already shifted. Mary Fallin, if in office today, would solidly be referred to as a RINO.
Within her second and last term as governor, Fallin’s conservative mask was not only off, but thrown on I-235 next to the state capitol and run over repeatedly. After promising during her reelection campaign to support bills supporting abortion restrictions and 2nd amendment rights, she vetoed both. Past scandals related to Fallin’s affair with a highway patrolman on her security detail followed by a bizarre and ugly public divorce were replaced in her second term by her wayward daughter placing a trailer as residence on the state-owned, governor’s mansion property.
Around the same time, and with the transparency of a thick morning fog, Fallin may have founded, if not perfected, the now common political practices of slow-walking open records requests, using private email to communicate with lobbyists and invoking executive privilege to hide political sins. If you’re gonna go, go big! And Fallin did just that. As the door was closing behind her, Fallin was voted the least popular governor in the nation and was awarded a Blackhole Award by Freedom of Information Oklahoma for her non-stop efforts to thwart the free flow of public information.
Fallin’s appointing of Hofmeister to the State Board of Education was either ignorance related to Hofmeister’s true motives and alliances or, more likely, sabotage against Barresi and the will of the people of Oklahoma. As the reader will soon learn, Governor Fallin’s cabinet pick for Secretary of Education, Phyllis Hudecki, had a great deal to do with Hofmeister’s appointment to the State Board of Education. Hudecki stepped down from her appointment in July of 2013, once Hofmeister was appointed, but would continue direct communication with Hofmeister as they sought to unseat Barresi as Secretary of Public Instruction.
As you will see, Hudecki, who came out strongly in support of Common Core during her time with Fallin, will later assist Hofmeister and a boatload of dark money in using Common Core as a bludgeoning stick against Barresi during the 2014 Republican primary. A political chameleon, changing her affiliation to Independent in 2014, only to file as a Republican in 2015 as her professional needs shifted, Hudecki is proof that most educational leaders in the state have no true convictions.
Similarly and conveniently flexible on what’s best for kids, Fallin played a key role in the creation of Common Core through the National Governors Association and dragged her feet in signing a bill to repeal the standards, even making late pleas to the state legislature to retain the standards. In a bizarre and miraculous last minute display of coincidental synchronicity, most of her appointees to the State Board of Education filed an unsuccessful lawsuit to stop the repeal. Collusion, anyone?
Nevertheless, common enemies, such as a true change-maker in government who must be removed, make for predictable bedfellows. This wasn’t a real conversation about what’s best for children and their education. It was about using whatever attack they could find to get rid of the outsider truly working for the people, in this case Barresi. Fallin willingly caved, signed the repeal bill, tossed Common Core over her leftist shoulder, and the Steal Team introduced Joy Hofmeister to the board of colluders, with Barresi’s headshot pinned to their bull’s-eye. Hofmeister went to work kicking up some serious Oklahoma dust around Barresi’s efforts.
Why Joy L. Hofmeister?
For those of you unfamiliar with Oklahoma, it’s a place where most people live in rural or semi-rural communities while statewide policy is driven from the two major metropolitan areas of Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City is the capitol of the state, but the big money and influence run through Tulsa, with those of the greatest means living in the suburbs surrounding the city. The Tulsa metro area is a clear tale of haves and have nots. Tulsa, especially the north part of the city, is one of the most chronically poverty-stricken and economically declining places in the country, while just a few miles away, in places like Jenks, Union and Broken Arrow, affluence is common.
Tulsa is also the land of non-profits. They are everywhere and the manipulantropists, Oklahoma’s surprisingly numerous and left-leaning billionaires, throw their money around like water, purporting to do “good work” as they promote the ideopression that keeps the people they espouse to serve in poverty. As a result, Tulsa is the wokest place in the state, with dozens of well-funded non-profits providing a stream of “services” for years, as quality of life indicators continue to plummet.
Educational and recreational services provided by non-profits to children within Tulsa Public Schools, often through benefactors or federal taxpayer-funded grants, were so abundant and overlapping that an intermediator organization called The Opportunity Project was funded to the tune of millions of dollars just to manage and schedule citywide providers. To translate, another layer of big money was needed to coordinate the pockets of other big money around the city, yet the intermediary really has no authority over those providing the direct services. Let’s call this the ever-expanding and often education-focused non-profitocracy, and just know the staff numbers and salaries in this growing Tulsa system have been rising for years. Yet 82% of Tulsa Public Schools students scored below proficiency on state testing (2018-19).
Wait a minute, you might be thinking. Isn’t Oklahoma ultra-conservative? Where are all these liberal, non-profit types coming from? Meet George Kaiser, billionaire oilman, founder of BOK Financial, and one of the main manipulantropists in Oklahoma. He’s thrown millions into ensuring Tulsa, and eventually Oklahoma, go his way. In a 2011 interview with Forbes, Kaiser gave credit to a conversation with Bill Gates about the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s massive vaccination campaigns in third world countries as his motivation for pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into early childhood education for Tulsa’s poorest families. If you’re struggling for a rational connection between these two efforts, you’re not alone. Given the disturbingly negative outcomes of both philanthropic campaigns, it’s difficult not to suspect hidden agendas held by these oligarchs which align much more logically than the “I just want to help” line would imply.
To encourage the most liberal thinkers to flock to Tulsa, the George Kaiser Family Foundation pays them each $10,000. No joke. The Tulsa Remote program, sponsored by the George Kaiser Foundation, is the system drawing them in. If you have a job that allows you to work remotely (self-employment counts) and are willing to move to Tulsa within a year, he’ll cut you a check. You’ll even get a free place to work at a community workspace, and he’ll hook you up with the non-profit “community”. As you can imagine, those who’ve taken Kaiser up on his offer often have no families, are passionate about their causes, and already work for NGOs that allow them to work from anywhere.
Not surprisingly, the non-profitocracy, at the financial behest of donors like Kaiser, seeks to define Tulsa by race and victimhood, particularly racial tragedy. Little healing or moving forward is encouraged. Just steeping in very real, unthinkable past tragedy, such as the Tulsa Race Riots of 1921, forever and in a very present way. These ideologists are committed to defining Tulsa by a past that all but a handful never actually experienced. They pull horrific acts from the past and, under the guise of ‘systemic racism’, attribute those atrocities to people of today who neither lived during that time nor hold any of the bigoted beliefs of those responsible for the egregious crimes of the past. Racism as a perpetual condition seems to be their product and the tool by which they claim ownership of North Tulsa and the impoverished people who live there, despite study after study showing America to be among the least racist countries on the planet.
This narrative, conveniently for the manipulanthropists, pushes those claiming racism as ever-present to the left and those falsely accused of it to the right, when in reality, the true oppression is coming from the ultra-wealthy and their desire to control as much of life as possible for all Oklahomans. Not only is it divisive, but it’s also emotionally and educationally handicapping to the youth in Tulsa. Of the more than 38,000 children in the Tulsa Public Schools system, only 18% score as proficient or better according to composites of standard testing in math, English and science (2018-19 last available data), with black students being the ethnic group least likely to gain proficiency.
Some of these non-profiteers are ideological purists, deeply committed to this flawed and unhelpful narrative. Others are simply grifters, busily skimming netfuls of taxpayer and foundation grant money in the form of NGO salaries while feeling important. These people talk a lot, mostly by Zoom, but accomplish little with respect to affecting any of the negative indicators plaguing the residents of North Tulsa, yet Oklahoma’s billionaires are squarely behind them.
If you were shocked to learn that Baltimore had schools in which entire grades of students were testing below proficiency or had dismal achievement indicators, hang on to your hat. Several Tulsa elementary schools, like John Hope Franklin ES, regularly show few or none of their third graders as testing proficient in reading. With third grade being a pivotal and predictive year for literacy skills, you can imagine the lack of future academic success and immense frustration waiting for those students within higher grade levels. Not surprisingly, junior high schools within Tulsa PS tend to fare no better. Along with John Hope Franklin ES, children attending Hale JH are strapped with a “0” academic achievement index, a 0-35 point scale that determines their preparedness for the next grade (2018-19; most current data available).
Tulsa Public Schools, particularly those schools in North Tulsa, are the places where a large percentage of black and Hispanic students must attend and where it is likely ensured their potential will never be supported or reached. Never-the-less, Tulsa PS superintendent Deborah Gist, former policy analyst for the U.S. Department of Education, first Superintendent of Education in Washington, D.C., and former Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education in Rhode Island, continues to collect her annual salary of $286,699 per year (includes stipends for car and expenses). After ensuring the public school districts she formerly led were securely in a nose-dive, Gist brought her failing ideology back home to Tulsa in 2015.
Tulsa is living proof that throwing money after bad ideology is destructive for those in need of uplifting and advantageous for those who hold the power. Oklahoma’s politicians take full advantage of the situation to secure their seats. US Senator James Lankford (R) regularly jumps in to feed the machine that ensures these children believe the world is squarely against them based on their color and steeps them in regular reminders of past atrocities, like the Tulsa Race Riots, no matter how young they may be. It’s hard to look forward with hope when people keep pushing your 5-year-old eyes backward and focused on horrific events a century in your city’s past, and no one is giving you the actual support you need to succeed in the present.
Lankford’s support of officially replacing Columbus Day with Juneteenth, and unknowingly strapping on the divisive lens of the 1619 Project, was about securing his ride, not improving conditions for North Tulsans. While it appeared to be a politically correct step to recognize another aspect of our collective American experience, he failed to understand the proposal’s underlying effort to simultaneously erase an established part of the nation’s founding through Columbus Day. This wasn’t a proposed addition to history, it was a replacement.
And Lankford is learning some hard lessons related to the Tulsa non-profitocracy’s power through his tap-dance about election integrity and his participation on the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission, which was originally formed to recognize and memorialize the 100th anniversary of that tragic event, but quickly morphed into a tool for division in the hands of the most progressive. When Lankford momentarily showed common sense by recommending our nation take a closer look at claims of systematic voter fraud within the 2020 federal election, the black leaders of Tulsa loudly asserted those claims had been “debunked” by the media, while offering no evidence of such a process, attacked Lankford in the press, and asked for his resignation from the commission.
To appease the loudest voices, Lankford’s spine went to jello concerning the integrity of our election systems. In his apology to Tulsa’s black community, he stated that he had not realized that his questioning of November 2020 election irregularities would be seen as a direct attack on the voting rights of people of color. Instead of maintaining appropriate concern for the integrity of the voting process for all Americans, Lankford pledged his allegiance to a false flag, which wasn’t the stars and stripes, and silently promised never to question any election that served the purposes of the non-profitocracy and their benefactors again. Lankford learned a valuable political lesson. You can’t race-grift unless you’re willing to go hard and unreasonably left, which helps no one and is political suicide for a milk toast officeholder in Oklahoma. Tulsa has tantrum power over Oklahoma’s elected officials, and it’s causing an ever-widening rift across the state’s populous. It’s no surprise that the billionaires of Tulsa would have the foresight, a decade ago, to groom Hofmeister as their agent to exploit just such a gap for the purpose of expanding their influence over the state.
Oklahomans understand ballots are either legally cast or not legally cast, making race and the politics of Tulsa irrelevant to determining the legitimacy of any election. They know the expansion of drop boxes and mail-in voting in 2020, due to the convenient Covid Irrationality Syndrome embraced at all levels of government, made the 2020 election particularly vulnerable to fraud. As is par for politics, lies spew quickly as if from a fire hose, while truth trickles out slowly through the layers of denial over time. Unfortunately for Lankford, the howling of the “oppressed” yet highly paid non-profit leaders in Tulsa temporarily fogged his thinking and he politi-panicked. One has to wonder what Senator Lankford thinks now as organizations like True the Vote continue to slowly and painstakingly peel back the layers of coordinated deception, solid evidence surfaces about nursing home voter fraud in Wisconsin, revelations reach the masses concerning oligarch Mark Zuckerburg pumping $419 million into non-profits in all key swing states to influence voting procedures and oversight, and mountains of digital and video evidence from the documentary 2000 Mules begin to knit together the truth of 2020 for all voters. It’s time, once again, to tap-dance, Senator Lankford.
With some context of urban Tulsa in mind, it’s back to the burbs and Joy Hofmeister, who hails from Jenks, a Tulsa suburb of private coaches and tutors and not-uncommon McMansions. She frequently describes her children as being a product of public school, but you should know that Jenks High School is bigger and better equipped than many small colleges. These are communities that hold boojie events and galas to support their non-profit, public-school foundations. The wealthy and important give and control. The superintendent at Jenks Public Schools currently makes an annual salary of over $250,000 while the state’s average household income hovers around $54,000. It’s good to be from Jenks and the administration at Jenks PS liked Hofmeister a lot.
In addition to serving on the board of the Jenks Public Schools Foundation, the fundraising arm of the district, Hofmeister, at the time of her appointment, was a participant on the district’s Select Committee for the Study of School Finance, a regular meeting of district administration, staff and select patrons to “share knowledge regarding school finance issues”. These are the places where affluent districts strategize ways to gain new funding and limit any threats to current funding, such as vouchers. Hofmeister proudly admitted she was recruited for appointment to the State Board of Education by the education establishment. One can just picture Kirby Lehman, Jenks PS superintendent at the time and recipient of emails from Hofmeister that would later become evidence in her future collusion indictments, lobbying other administrators across the state to support Hofmeister’s appointment.
You might be asking why the smaller, poorer, and more rural districts would be on board with a state board pick from the Tulsa elite like Hofmeister. If you stop following the money to the classroom and start following the money to administrators’ pockets, you’ll quickly find common ground. Many rural Oklahoma districts serve few students while continuing to pay a significant salary to a superintendent, leaving classrooms woefully underfunded. Barresi was an active proponent for annexing or consolidating the smallest districts, often serving only K-8th grade students (no high school), into neighboring districts and eliminating those administrative salaries. Many rural superintendents have, by far, the best paying jobs in their small communities.
During Janet Barresi’s tenure as Superintendent of Public Instruction, each year brought the consolidation or annexation of smaller school districts into larger neighbors. If Barresi continued to be successful in reigned in rural school financing, pushing more money to classrooms and children, many more administrators would be looking for work.
In addition, Barresi’s new, annual A-F report cards for schools and districts were adding a level of accountability that brought outcries from districts of all sizes and levels of affluence. School administrators choosing Hofmeister for the state’s school board represented an appointment in support of the status quo of little accountability and uninterrupted funding for public schools, regardless of performance. This was not a pick made with the best interests of Oklahoma’s children in mind.
As a bonus, Hofmeister bridged the gap between the elitist burbs and the woke city. Her husband, Gerald Hofmeister, is a lawyer and Municipal Court Judge for the city of Tulsa and was the first judge to begin hearing cases in Tulsa’s Homeless Court in May of 2014. The Homeless Court is another progressive idea that sounds like compassion in action for those in need and ends with an increase in human suffering. The aim of Tulsa’s Homeless Court was to provide mental health and addiction treatment for transients rather than jail time for their criminal offenses. Five years into the project, homeless rates in Tulsa proved to be increasing, despite a collaboration of court connected services in place of criminal consequences for homeless offenders. From just 2018 to 2019, homeless rates grew by 10%, according to the Community Service Council, which conducts an annual count of those living on Tulsa’s streets.
The new Homeless Court structure, under Judge Gerald Hofmeister, and new city policy limited the range of interaction options available to local law enforcement, drawing criticism from Tulsa residents and property owners who were increasingly coming into direct contact with the erratic and frequently criminal behavior of homeless people in their neighborhoods. It turns out criminals with mental health and substance issues are more likely to accept and participate in treatment with fidelity while in jail than when presented with the option of returning to the streets. Nevertheless, Hofmeister’s husband is of the compassionate and progressive elite, despite the real-world consequences to the most vulnerable.
Joy Hofmeister held a bachelor’s degree in education, but once appointed to the State Board of Education, it suddenly became important for her to get her master’s in Education Administration with a “specialty” in Education Policy & Law, which she quickly began pursuing through the University of Oklahoma. She was clearly being primed by the education establishment for the State Superintendent’s job and worked quickly to build the optically required credentials.
Bios on Hofmeister often show her as CEO of a network of educational support and tutoring locations, which is a truth written in resume language. Hofmeister was the operational head of three Kumon tutoring franchises owned by her family’s for-profit company, Kumon of South Tulsa. The entity was first registered in November of 2000 with Gerald Hofmeister as agent. Hofmeister’s role in the business, as “CEO” and “executive with private sector experience”, is touted with the hopeful underlying assumption that she earned her way through the ranks of some organization, rather than purchasing the title. Given that Hofmeister’s husband is agent for the entity and her son’s LinkedIn page indicates that he has been the business’ “owner” since 2015, her previous executive title appears to be something bought, not earned.
As a political being at the podium, Hofmeister is effective at coming off as a voice for working families and their children, but a search of her legal involvements shows that if you do any work for Hofmeister and her husband at home, you may have to fight to get paid. According to a court records search, the Hofmeister’s contracted for some work on a property in 2007, including landscaping, that left two different contractors unpaid. Landscape architect and design firm Ikon Landscaping filed a suit for more than $10,000 in non-payment, to which the Hofmeister’s responded with five attorneys and multiple counterclaims against the small, self-employed contractor. Similarly, and in the same year, Lorin Smith Homes sued the Hofmeister’s for more than $10,000 and breach of contract and was met with the same barrage of counterclaims and attorneys. It’s good to be married to a lawyer and a judge. It appears the labels of “embattled” and “controversial” Hofmeister worked hard to affix to Janet Barresi may well be descriptive of her own personal, business dealings with the Tulsa metro’s working class.
It's important to understand that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Oklahoma, then Janet Barresi, holds no powers under the state constitution. This role exists to provide advice and make recommendations to the State Board of Education about policy. And while the Superintendent serves as president of the State Board and operational head of the State Department of Education, the board holds the ultimate power, making the sabotage of Barresi’s education improvement agenda fairly easy for Hofmeister as a board member. Once Joy Hofmeister joined the board and succeeded in painting Barresi as a troublemaker, in concert with the ruling elite and their media mouthpieces, Hofmeister was unsurprisingly recruited by the heads of both the teachers’ and school administrators’ unions, among other proponents of the status quo, to primary Barresi in her 2014 bid for reelection. Before you steal a state, you need to steal a few seats of influence, and the powers that be in Oklahoma education had no problem supporting a dirty campaign to ensure this step in the process.
Hofmeister stepped down from the State Board of Education in late 2013, immediately hooked up with the most successful and least ethical political consultants and power brokers in the state, and ran a heavily negative primary campaign against incumbent Janet Barresi to secure the 2014 Republican nomination for State Superintendent of Public Instruction. It was during this campaign that the intrigue really heated up and the wheelers and dealers in Oklahoma public education and politics revealed themselves. Season Two is where the real law-breaking begins, so subscribe for free today.
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