The state board that oversees Oklahoma's nationally recognized career technology schools is working to dismantle the award-winning vocational education system - an action that would jeopardize the future of career technology and ultimately hinder Oklahoma's economic development efforts, according to Senator Mike Morgan, vice-chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
"Oklahoma's career technology system has been consistently recognized as one of the best job training programs in the country. Other states come to Oklahoma to copy our system because it has a proven track record of creating jobs and fostering economic development. Tampering with such a successful product would not be in the best interest of our state and its economic development efforts," said Senator Morgan.
According to the Stillwater legislator, officials in the career tech system say some members of the State Board of Career and Technology Education want to dismantle the current system, start over and build replacement product.
"Just like the old saying, if it's not broke, don't fix it. Our career technology system is far from broken - it's a model for the rest of the nation - but for some reason, some members of the board want to throw it in the garbage can and start from scratch. Given our track record of success, that really doesn't make any sense," said Senator Morgan.
In recent days, some members of the career technology board have been trying to gain enough support to oust career tech director Ann Benson. Benson apparently drew the board's ire when she fought their efforts to dismantle the current system.
Senator Morgan wants Benson to stay on the job, however, saying that she is simply trying to preserve and improve a system that has worked for the state.
"Ann Benson has done a wonderful job of making a great career tech system even better. The only reason she's being targeted now is because she is fighting changes that she believes would be detrimental to the system and the state as a whole. Other than a few members of the board, she has the unqualified support of the career technology community and many members of the Legislature. Ousting her would be a big step backward for our state," he said.
Morgan, whose Senate district includes the headquarters of the career technology system in Stillwater, said he is also concerned about the potential impact on career tech employees.
"When you turn a system like this upside down as this board is trying to do, you put the jobs of a lot of state employees in jeopardy. I'm not going to stand for that and I know a lot of other
state legislators who won't either," he said.