Stories For September 2014

This year's race for Oklahoma's top public school official could mirror the 2014 election.

Incumbent state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and Peggs Public Schools Superintendent John Cox are the only two who have confirmed their candidacy to The Oklahoman.

Hofmeister, who is a Republican, beat Cox, a Democrat, by 11 percentage points in the 2014 general election.

“I want to be a voice for public schools,” said Cox, who has led his eastern Oklahoma district for 25 years.

Cox said he disagrees with the state Department of Education's recent increase on test proficiency standards, calling it an “assault on public education.”

The new standards produced an expected drop in average test scores but Hofmeister said it was necessary to more accurately compare Oklahoma students with the rest of the nation.

"We remain focused on lifting academic outcomes for kids, fighting for regionally competitive teacher pay and continuing to build positive momentum with stakeholders across the state," Hofmeister said in a statement to The Oklahoman.

Hofmeister is the only candidate for state superintendent who has registered a financial committee with the state ethics commission, showing a balance just over $50,000, based on campaign reports from September, the most recent month available.

Cox said he plans to have his paperwork completed in the coming weeks.

Besides Cox and Hofmeister, The Oklahoman has been unable to confirm any other announced candidacy, which could be surprising given the political scuffle Oklahoma education has become.

"It's hard to satisfy everybody on education issues, so it is a surprise that you don't see more people talking about running," said Jason Nelson, a former state representative who was a key player on education issues during his time in the Legislature. "But it's a secondary race, which means it's the type of race people could get into late if they are the right kind of person, if they have any type of network or funding. But if you are running for governor it is a different story."

Hofmeister might have been viewed as a more vulnerable incumbent last year as she faced felony counts of conspiring to break campaign fundraising laws.

But the charges were dropped last August by the Oklahoma County District Attorney's office. Hofmeister responded, saying she “knew I was innocent and that I had conducted myself appropriately.”

Hofmeister's path to the state superintendent's office four years ago began with a Republican primary win against two other candidates, including incumbent Janet Barresi.

Cox beat Freda Deskin in the Democratic primary.

This year's primary election is June 26, followed by the general election on Nov. 6.

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