Statement by Senator Stratton Taylor
Senate President Pro Tempore
"I think there's a very simple explanation behind all of the Governor's recent media statements. He's come forward with a smoke and mirrors teacher pay raise program that contains no real money and he's upset because we've exposed it for what it is. I know Governor Keating would prefer that I sit on the sidelines while his media circus rolls by, but I
don't intend to do that."
"If Governor Keating is really interested in engaging in a constructive discussion, why doesn't he talk to me personally instead of issuing proposals and letters to the media? If he really wants an intelligent, non-partisan meeting of the minds, why did he have a partisan public relations man co-author the education report that he is now touting?"
"I didn't hear about the Governor's education proposal until I was contacted about it by a reporter. The same is true of the 'personal' letter he addressed to me today. It was delivered to members of the media half an hour before it was delivered to me."
"Given those facts, I can't say I buy the Governor's claim that he's interested in constructive discussions. So far, his education agenda has been nothing more than a media campaign, long on sound bites and short on serious solutions."
"Still, I'm giving the Governor the benefit of the doubt. That's why I forwarded his plan to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education for review during the coming legislative session. In the meantime, I'm willing to sit down with Governor Keating and discuss it because I do have a number of questions."
"First of all, I'd like to know if he's read the proposal that he described as a 'rational discussion of school finance issues.' Among other things, it suggested that we would have plenty of money available for a teacher pay hike if we could just get rid of 40,000 students in our public schools. I'd like to know if the Governor truly thinks that is a rational approach
to our school funding problems."
"We believe the Governor's proposals could be particularly damaging in western Oklahoma where there are great distances to travel between small schools. These schools undoubtedly contribute to the state's small class size average, for example, given the sparse populations and low number of students they serve. It appears the Governor's proposal could force many of these rural districts to consolidate. If Governor Keating truly favors forced school consolidation, he should be honest about it."
"While I've advocated school consolidation of urban districts like Putnam City and Oklahoma City that do not serve separate cities or towns, rural communities pose a unique problem. However, if Governor Keating is suggesting a back door consolidation program, he should tell us which districts he is proposing to eliminate."
"On the subject of administrative costs, I think Governor Keating will find that there are no big, central offices in school districts like Claremore and Pryor. If he knows of rural districts that have large central offices, he should forward us the names of the schools and the positions that should be eliminated. If he truly wants to be bipartisan, I would urge him to start with the schools in the districts of Republican legislators. If he doesn't have a list of the GOP districts, we would be happy to provide him with one. Until he starts pointing to specific cuts in specific districts, we can only conclude that Governor Keating isn't really serious about delivering a pay raise to Oklahoma teachers."
"The bottom line is this. If we're going to do a teacher pay raise, let's do a real teacher pay raise with real money, not one that pits teachers against cafeteria workers and bus drivers. If Governor Keating would behave a little more like one of his predecessors, Republican Henry Bellmon, I think we could make substantial progress on the issue of public education."