OKLAHOMA CITY - Saying Governor Keating owes the parents of Oklahoma school children and teachers an explanation, a Senate education leader is asking the Governor to offer more specifics about his objections to a sweeping education reform bill.
"I think the people of Oklahoma have some legitimate questions about his veto," said Senator Don Williams, author of SB 1100, the education reform bill vetoed by Governor Keating on Friday. "A six or seven sentence veto message doesn't explain why he killed a major school reform measure."
The Balko legislator is asking Governor Keating to explain --in detailed specifics-- why he vetoed reform legislation that included such things as career teacher pay raises, school deregulation, teacher training and advanced placement initiatives.
"What's wrong with more local control over our schools? What's wrong with giving our best veteran teachers a much deserved pay raise? What's wrong with offering more training to help our teachers become better teachers?" asked Senator Williams.
"The Governor has given lip service to all of those initiatives at one time or another, but when he had the chance to put his money where his mouth was, he vetoed them. I'd like to know why, not just in sound bites, but in specifics."
Governor Keating's veto contradicted numerous public statements he has made about his alleged support of education. For example, throughout his tenure in office, the Governor has said he supported pay raises for career teachers, increased local control and teacher training. The Governor's Commission on Government Performance also made similar recommendations, included a proposal calling for an increased emphasis on early childhood education.
"I would like to know if Governor Keating has some reason for his change of heart because he certainly never expressed one during the debate on SB 1100," said Senator Williams.
In a short statement on Friday, Governor Keating claimed he vetoed the bill because it expanded early childhood education, saying parents, not teachers, should educate 4-year olds. He made that statement less than a week after approving additional funding for Head Start, a move that will increase early educational opportunities for 4-year olds.
"How can you support Head Start and then say you don't support early childhood education? They're the same thing," noted Senator Williams.
The Senate education leader says he is especially puzzled by the Governor's veto of school deregulation, a provision which would have cut red tape and given more control to local school districts. Among other things, SB 1100 directed that "an educational function not specifically delegated to the State Department of Education or the State Board of Education is reserved and shall be performed by the local districts."
Governor Keating has consistently said he favors greater local control.
"We tried to give our local districts more control, but the Governor stopped us with his veto pen. It's just one of many damaging inconsistencies in Governor Keating's record on public education," said Senator Williams.
"There are just a lot of unanswered questions about the veto of SB 1100 and I think the people of Oklahoma deserve some answers from Governor Keating."