Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Keeping Teachers in State among Benson's Goals

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Keeping Teachers in State among Benson's Goals

Article excerpt

House Speaker Loyd Benson, D-Frederick, on Thursday released his list of goals for the 2000 session, a series of measures he believes will improve the quality of life for Oklahomans.

"Our most valuable resource is our people," Benson said. "It's time we turn our attention to them, and to finding ways of making their lives better."

Benson said the leadership plan reflects the diversity of Oklahoma and addresses a number of major problems needing immediate attention.

"We can sit around and talk, or we can work together and get things done," the speaker said.

The proposal includes:

* Halting the exodus of Oklahoma teachers to surrounding states by increasing salaries to marketplace level.

"During the last six months, Oklahoma has lost almost 1,000 teachers to other states and industry," Benson said.

"We can't let this continue. Right now, a Texas teacher with 15 years experience earns almost $8,000 more than an Oklahoma teacher with the same experience. It's no wonder we're losing our children's teachers left and right."

Benson said that Oklahoma ranks 48th in teachers' salaries.

"It's simple," he said. "Our future is at stake if this trend isn't turned around."

* Helping ensure that rural and small-town Oklahoma participates in state growth and prosperity.

"We must expand the successful economic development efforts of the state's urban areas to include more of our non-urban areas," Benson said. "Programs like the Rural Economic Action Plan should be expanded to establish stable, higher-paying jobs for all Oklahomans."

* Protecting the health of future generations by directing a substantial portion of the tobacco settlement into a trust fund for health-care issues.

"It's time to put a stop to the arguments and focus on helping Oklahomans," the speaker said. "By earmarking a major portion of the tobacco money for health care, we can serve families without insurance, help our seniors with prescription costs and keep more rural hospitals open."

* Requiring more accountability and correcting the management problems associated with the Department of Corrections and what Benson termed the Keating administration's refusal to use lower- cost work centers instead of high-cost private prisons. …

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