Professional Oklahoma Educators was founded in 1988 by the late Superintendent Olan Isbell of Bennington Public Schools. Ginger Tinney has served as executive director since 1996. For several years it has been affiliated with the national Association of American Educators.
In May 2005, then-Director of Legal Services Jennifer Burchett successfully lobbied for a new Oklahoma statute that created equal access on school campuses for professional educator organizations in Oklahoma, putting Professional Oklahoma Educators' recruiting efforts on more level footing with larger and more established organizations.
State Board Case
In October 2005, then-Legal Counsel Chad Anderson won a precedent-setting case representing a member before the Oklahoma State Board of Education. An Oklahoma school district had asked the state to suspend the teaching certificate of the teacher, accusing her of breaking a contract. Anderson argued that the contract was only temporary in nature and did not require statutory notification for nonrenewal. The board ruled unanimously in favor of Anderson and the teacher.
Professional Oklahoma Educators was instrumental in blocking Gov. Brad Henry's plan for statewide public program for 3-year-olds. In the early stages of the 2007 legislative session, Tinney and Miller presented a survey that showed 86 percent of its members opposed the program. Professional Oklahoma Educators said other funding issues were more crucial, including the underfunded Teachers Retirement System. The bill failed in a Senate committee in a tie vote along party lines. Every Democrat sided with Henry and every Republican sided with Professional Oklahoma Educators.
Istook press conference
Despite Professional Oklahoma Educators' claims of nonpartisanship, it is closely tied with the Oklahoma Republican Party. In 2006, Tinney appeared at a news conference with U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-OK, who at the time was seeking the Republican nomination for governor of Oklahoma. Although neither Tinney nor the organization endorsed Istook's candidacy, it was clear that the two shared conservative policy goals, which included denouncing a lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma Education Association and criticizing Gov. Brad Henry for his inaction on the issue.
Conservative group membership
Tinney has been listed as a member of a group of Oklahoma conservatives who joined in May 2006 to request legislative action on a number of issues, including allowing mentoring teachers to serve independently of input from a bargaining agent. The group included then-Lt. Gov. Mary Fallin, then-Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau and Corporation Commissioner Denise Bode.
Tinney also has stirred controversy for her news conferences and opinion pieces that oppose advancement of a homosexual agenda in U.S. curricula. She has been quoted as saying, "I don't send my child to school to learn to be a homosexual. I send my child to learn math and to read."
Wallace Collins criticism
Again testing the bounds of its "nonpartisan" label, Professional Oklahoma Educators issued a statement to members April 23, 2007, demanding an apology from state Rep. Wallace Collins, D-Norman, for comments he made on the House floor. It also contained a link to a YouTube audio file of the incident. The statement read, in part:
On April 12, 2007, an inappropriate comment was made on the floor of the Oklahoma House of Representatives regarding public education. While trying to clarify some information regarding a bill under consideration, Representative Wallace Collins (Norman) stated: “I’m only a public school graduate, so I’m not very literate…” As your advocate, Professional Oklahoma Educators is working to ensure that all elected officials act and speak appropriately and respectfully regarding Oklahoma’s public schools and public school teachers.
Wallace refused to apologize.