When Governor Keating vetoed a series of education reform measures at the end of the legislative session, he also killed a number of proposals made by the Governor's Commission on Government Performance he created, according to a Senate Budget leader.
"We were trying to figure out why Governor Keating vetoed the education reform bill because none of his explanations made any sense, so we took a look at the performance commission papers to see if we could find any clues there," said Senator Cal Hobson, referring to the Governor's veto of SB 1100. "Much to our surprise, we discovered that Governor Keating had vetoed the same school reform proposals made by his hand-picked reform panel.
"The Governor had said his performance commission volunteers would have all the answers to our problems, but apparently their answers didn't mesh with the Keating agenda, especially his anti-public education stance."
Last year, the Governor picked 50 state employee "volunteers" to draft a reform plan for government. Their final report issued in October of 1995 recommended a variety of education reform initiatives.
For example, the Keating volunteers advocated more local control through school deregulation (Education Chapter, pgs. 53, 93). School deregulation was a key provision of SB 1100, vetoed by Governor Keating.
"People have been shouting for more local school control for years. It's the one thing that everyone seems to agree on. This year, the reform volunteers proposed it, the Legislature passed it and Governor Keating vetoed it. Not only did he ignore the will of the people, he thumbed his nose at his own reform commission," said the Senate Appropriations Committee vice-chairman.
The Keating volunteers also advocated expanded early childhood education, reasoning that it would save the state money in the long run on reduced prison and welfare costs (Education Chapter, pgs. 53 to 60). SB 1100 would have expanded early education as recommended by the Keating panel, but the Governor vetoed it, saying parents, not the government, should be educating young children.
"Governor Keating ignored all the recommendations from his people, all the evidence about the investment value of early childhood education and killed the program. He's demonstrated that he won't listen to facts or reason on public education issues, even if his own people are delivering the message. If it doesn't pass the radical right litmus test, it won't get Frank Keating's approval," said Senator Hobson.
The Keating volunteers also advocated increased teacher training (Educ. Chapter, pg. 85), a key component of SB 1100. Governor Keating not only vetoed all $6 million earmarked for Oklahoma teacher training programs, he also killed a $1.5 million appropriation for the Teacher Preparation Commission, even though he had requested $1.8 million for the commission in his executive budget.
"When the Governor vetoes his own recommendations, you really have to scratch your head and wonder. The Legislature made a good faith effort to implement the education recommendations of the Keating reform volunteers, but Governor Keating vetoed them," said Senator Hobson. "This is a perfect illustration of Frank Keating's hostile attitude toward public education. He refuses to lift a finger to help our public schools, even when his own people are telling him it's the right thing to do. I'm afraid that public education is never going to get a fair shake under the Keating administration."
In light of Governor Keating's decision to ignore the performance commission recommendations, the Lexington legislator is also questioning the cost of the reform project.
"What was the use of forming and financing a reform commission if the Governor isn't going to follow its recommendations?" asked Senator Hobson. "Thanks to Governor Keating, it was a big waste of time and money."
It cost the state almost $1.2 million dollars in salaries to donate the time of the 50 volunteers to the Keating performance commission project. Additionally, the Governor raised almost $1 million in private funds for the effort.