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Vo-tech Neglected In Keating Budget

Governor Jeopardizes State's "Cash Cow" of Job Creation

Citing statistics about the economic importance of vocational-technical education, a Senate budget leader is urging Governor Keating to increase his support of vo-tech schools.

"Vo-tech hasn't fared very well under the Keating regime, and this year is no exception," said Senator Darryl Roberts, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.

"We can't afford to neglect Oklahoma's cash cow of economic development. If we let vo-tech wither on the vine, as Governor Keating proposes to do again this year, we're going to lose our edge in the competition for new jobs."

The Oklahoma Department of Vocational-technical Education has requested an additional $20 million this year, but Governor Keating has proposed only a $5.5 million increase, $2.2 million of which replaces funds vetoed by the Governor last year. Senate leaders have proposed a $12 million increase.

"Once you factor in inflation and the funds he vetoed last year, Governor Keating is basically offering vo-tech a standstill budget in a year when we have $280 million-plus in growth revenue. That's not a very sensible job creation strategy, especially when you consider the economic importance of vo-tech training," said Senator Roberts.

This isn't the first time Governor Keating has slighted vo-tech in his executive budget. In fact, during his first two years in office, he used his veto pen to cut millions of dollars in funding earmarked for vo-tech programs.

Vo-tech Funding History During Keating Administration:

Governor's Proposal Legislature Approved Vetoed Actual FY '96 $200,000 increase $1.8 million increase $2 million $200,000 cut FY '97 $4.4 million increase $8.4 million increase $2.2 million $6.6 mil. + FY '98 $5.2 million increase $12 million (proposed) $ (?) $ (?)

Senator Roberts and other Senate leaders have proposed a $12 million budget increase for vo-tech this year, with funding earmarked for a variety of economic initiatives, including high-wage/high-tech job training, training for existing industries, dropout recovery, welfare to work and safety training.

"We're trying to cover the waterfront on our economic needs. Safety training cuts workers comp costs and saves businesses money, welfare to work decreases the AFDC caseload and high-tech job training helps create a skilled workforce for the very companies we want to attract," said Senator Roberts.

The Ardmore legislator cited a number of statistics illustrating the economic importance of a strong vo-tech system.

  • More skilled workers will be needed in the economy of the future. As recently as the 1980's, more than 50 percent of high school graduates could find jobs without specialized training. By the turn of the century, only 15 percent of jobs will require only a high school education. Most (65%) will require specific technical skills, more than a high school education but less than a college degree (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics);
  • More than 90 percent of vo-tech educated students are placed in career path jobs or continue to advance their education (State Dept. of Vo-tech);
  • Vo-tech self-employment training and small business management programs stimulated an increase in the Gross State Product of $77 million in 1996 (State Dept. of Vo-tech);

"We've built one of the best vocational-technical systems in the world here, and it's paid off for us and children. We can't afford to let neglect one of best economic development tools, yet that is exactly what Frank Keating has done as Governor," said Senator Roberts.