School to Work Veto May Bring Loss of Funds

Article excerpt

Gov. Frank Keating's veto of a bill that would set up a statewide School to Work program has miffed a statewide business organization, and a state legislator says it could jeopardize Oklahoma's chance at millions of federal dollars.

Keating on Tuesday turned down House Bill 1569.

The bill would have replaced the state's existing 13-member Youth Apprenticeship Committee with a 28-member School to Work Executive Council comprised of representatives of business and common, higher and vocationaltechnical education.

"We wanted to expand the board to conform with federal wishes. They wanted a broad spectrum of input into the program," said James Hager, D-Pawhuska and the bill's author.

Oklahoma was in line, because of its strong vocational-technical system, to get up to $6 million in federal funding for a statewide School to Work program, Hager said.

"With this veto, the governor has slammed the door shut on a program that could bring millions of federal dollars to the state for a program that has very broad-based, bipartisan support."

School to Work is a program designed to ease students' transition to the workforce by exposing them to career options and helping them understand the relation between academic course work and workplace skills.

The program begins as early as first grade, with a curriculum that teaches students about the range of job options.

Later on, students would have access to mentors in the business world and would be able to get hands-on work experience.

Keating said in his written veto message: "In this time of limited financial resources, it is inappropriate to try to dismantle a successful existing system to create a new system to accomplish the same result.

"Any alteration of the system which might result in conflicts between the vo-tech system and the common and higher education systems would do a great disservice to the concerted efforts to provide appropriate quality education."

A State Chamber lobbyist said the veto is puzzling.

"The reasons in the veto message did not explain anything because they're simply not accurate," said Karen Leveridge, education director for The State Chamber. …