Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Chamber Unveils Education Reform Plan

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Chamber Unveils Education Reform Plan

Article excerpt

An education reform package with a $591.87 million price tag was unveiled Monday by the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce and Industry in response to Gov. Henry Bellmon's proposed overhaul of state education funding.

The package, proposed to be implemented over a six-year period, borrows from existing studies and legislation.

It is the result of six months of work, and was in process before Bellmon called for the special legislative session which convenes Aug. 14, chamber chairman Robert Berry said in a news conference.

Berry said the lack of reforms is a major flaw in the process of proposing to overhaul the state's education funding system to increase revenues.

"We believe to the people of Oklahoma, the key issue is reform, not taxation," he said.

"If the citizens can be convinced there will be changes in education, they will match reform with revenue. It is clear that no one wants to keep funding the same old system."

Berry said the chamber is working on an estimate of how much of the $591.87 million would have to come in the form of additional revenue, and how much could be achieved through savings as the result of implementing the reforms.

For example, if the high school dropout rate was reduced, the number of people collecting Aid to Families with Dependent Children would decrease, and the gross state product would improve, he said.

Further, he said the reforms are not meant to be effective all at once, but rather in sequence.

The plan drew from 17 institutional resources, including the Oklahoma Departments of Commerce, Human Services, Education and Industry, and Vo Technical Education. The Oklahoma Education Association, Oklahoma Federation of Teachers, and Oklahoma Academy for State Goals were other sources, Berry said.

In addition, the plan used existing legislation in the form of Senate Bill 183, known as the Oklahoma 2000 Challenge Act, and House Joint Resolution 1033.

Cost estimates for the reforms were compiled by the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

The seven broad reform categories and the estimated cost are:

- A statewide quality control system that would be fully funded by the state, to cover school district minimum standards, competency testing, public disclosure of test comparisons, parental choice of schools, and personnel development. Estimated cost: $8.08 million.

- Use of existing resources by employing long-range planning, personnel use and private sector partnerships. Covers such items as class size reduction, volunteers in classroom, and magnet schools. Estimated cost: $81.54 million.

- Encouraging a quality management system at all levels to provide innovative leadership. Includes streamlining of school districts. Estimated cost: $15.96 million.

- "Intellectual loss control," including an effort to reduce the number of dropouts, focus on special needs children, hire an adequate number of school counselors, and look at teen and adult literacy programs. Estimated cost: $160.2 million.

- Strengthen the curriculum and learning process, including a standardized minimum core curriculum, international awareness, and modernization of textbooks. Estimated cost: $74.5 million.

- Personnel incentives, including compensation of teachers at the regional average and performance-based awards for teachers such as merit pay, master teacher or career ladder. Estimated cost: $178.88 million.

- Child care and early childhood education, including mandatory kindergarten. Estimated cost: $72.75 million.

The chamber called for the appointment of Task Force 2000, an oversight committee to be appointed by the House Speaker, Senate President Pro Tempore, and the Governor. This watchdog committee was provided for in House Joint Resolution 1033. …

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