Governor Keating convened day three of his revisionist history lesson on his education record today, enlisting the aid of two Republican legislators to help him in his continuing effort to cover his anti-education tracks.
"Me thinketh he protest a bit too much," said Senator Cal Hobson, paraphrasing a famous line from Shakespeare that best describes Governor Keating's recent protestations and gesticulations about his education record.
"I wish Frank Keating was a pro-education governor, but unfortunately the facts don't support his contention. Quite the contrary, the facts vividly illustrate a Governor who has been so unable to hide his disdain for public education that he has attacked our schools at every turn. It's sad but true."
In recent days, Governor Keating has embarked on a rehabilitation campaign of sorts, designed to downplay his anti-education record and convince people that he really supports the public schools.
"You can't rewrite history. The only way for Governor Keating to become the 'tremendous friend of education' he claims to be is through actions, not through slick p-r campaigns or revisionist history propaganda. Unfortunately, the Governor's actions to date have been anything but friendly toward our public schools."
According to the vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, people need look no further than Keating's first and last actions in office to see the depth of the Governor's hostility toward public education.
"The first thing Frank Keating did when he became Governor was propose a $15 million cut to higher education. The last thing he did was suggest that we divert motor vehicle tag revenue from education to transportation. Everything in between has been equally damaging to public education," noted Senator Hobson.
"No matter how you look at Governor Keating's education record, whether it's in single parts or as a whole, it is out of step with the high value the people of Oklahoma have consistently placed on our public schools. That's not the kind of leadership our state needs or deserves, especially in a time when education and economic development are so critical."
One of Governor Keating's favorite claims about his education record is that he signed "record" appropriations for schools this year. In reality, he signed the Legislature's budget program for education which was significantly larger than what he had proposed. For example, Keating's higher education budget this year would have barely covered mandated retirement and fixed costs at colleges and universities, putting little if any new money in the classrooms.
In the final analysis, Governor Keating's only involvement in this year's education budget was the bill signing ceremony during the last week of session.
"All Governor Keating did was pick up a pen, sign on the dotted line and get his picture taken for the newspapers. All the heavy lifting on the education budget was done by legislators with Governor Keating on the sideline, watching the parade go by," said Senator Hobson.
"Governor Keating was AWOL on the education budget, just as he's been on every public school issue."
Governor Keating has also attempted to blame the Legislature for blocking reforms, when it was the Governor himself who vetoed SB 1100, a sweeping reform bill that contained school deregulation, teacher training and career pay increases.
"Governor Keating's attempts to paint himself as the task master of school reform is so ludicrous it's laughable. He killed school deregulation and a variety of other reforms with his veto pen, and is now launching a p-r campaign to blame their demise on the Legislature," noted Senator Hobson.
The Lexington legislator said he is confident Oklahomans will see through the Keating ruse and demand that he attempt to change his tune on education.
"I know it's going to be tough for him --like the proverbial leopard trying to change its spots-- but I'm confident Governor Keating can change and become a supporter of education.
"He's been trying to bleed public education dry, slowly but surely, from the day he stepped into office. I think he's starting to realize that Oklahomans don't support Governor Keating's slow strangulation of public education," said Senator Hobson.
THE REAL RECORD OF FRANK "A TREMENDOUS FRIEND OF EDUCATION" KEATING
1995 (First Year in Office)
-As one of his first official duties, Governor Keating proposed a $15 million cut for higher education and standstill budgets for common education and vocational-technical education.
Governor Keating became the first state chief executive in recent history NOT to propose additional funding for education when new revenue was available.
-Governor Keating nominated Linda Murphy, a person who hadn't been inside a public school in 20 years, as his Education Secretary. Her sole qualification was the political support she had received from the radical right in the '94 elections. Keating called the appointment "one of the best appointments in the country."
-Governor Keating angered many education supporters when , in pushing for a college tuition increase, he insisted "there is no pride in a cheap degree."
-At the end of the '95 session, Governor Keating vetoed $6 million earmarked for common education, including funding for school lunches and special education. He also vetoed $2 million for vo-tech.
-Governor Keating also vetoed funding for Head Start, an early education program that has a proven track record of success in keeping kids out of prison and off of welfare. He labeled it a "Big Brother" program. (He signed a similar bill in 1996).
-Governor Keating frequently bragged about his numerous vetoes. In 1995, 44 percent of the vetoed funding came from education. In 1996, the total was 63 percent.
-Even though business leaders and economic experts urged increased emphasis on education for economic development reasons, Governor Keating ignored their advice, saying schools weren't the answer to Oklahoma's business recruitment needs.
-Governor Keating refused to take a stand on State Question 669, a proposal that would have been devastating to public schools. Behind the scenes, Keating worked with adviser Tom Cole to pass 669, which had been endorsed by the State GOP. Cole's consulting firm ran the pro-669 campaign.
-Governor Keating proposed a $101 million increase for common education, but upon closer examination it turned out to be a smoke and mirrors budget. Almost the entire total was earmarked for retirement costs and midterm adjustments, funding for which only one-third of the districts qualified.
The Governor proposed just a $3 million increase for the common education funding formula, money from which ALL schools benefit.
-In response to a hypothetical question, Governor Keating labeled Oklahoma school teachers "slugs." When teachers objected, Keating refused to retract his remark, saying the objections were "silly."
-Governor Keating rejected Goals 2000 funding for Oklahoma classroom improvements, even though he had supported the initiative in the months preceding the official rejection.
-Governor Keating and his supporters characterized School-to-Work, a program championed by the Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders, as a "communist plot" in an effort to derail the initiative.
-Governor Keating vetoed SB 1100, a sweeping reform measure that included career teacher pay raises, more local school control, teacher training and advanced placement initiatives. On many occasions, Governor Keating has said he favors all those proposals.
-Governor Keating said he vetoed SB 1100 because it expanded early childhood education, saying parents, not teachers, should educate 4 year olds. He made this statement one week after he approved funding for Head Start, an early education program for 4 year olds.
-Governor Keating accused Oklahoma teachers of "dumbing down" students, inaccurately claiming that test scores were not keeping pace with the rest of the country. He also pledged to "break the backs" of teachers responsible for this alleged offense.
-In July, Governor Keating proposed diverting motor vehicle tag revenue from education to transportation, an action that could cost schools up to $170 million each year.