Long-term, strategic funding; higher ed reform & investment among Chamberís Education & Workforce Development legislative priorities
The Chamber recently released its legislative agenda for 2020. Get more details on our Education & Workforce Development legislative priorities below:
Early Childhood Education
The Chamber steadfastly supports early childhood education and full funding of pre-K and kindergarten programs. Targeted spending on our youngest children is simply a smart investment. The Chamber supports legislative initiatives to maintain early childhood education programs and initiatives.
Long-Term, Strategic Education Funding
The Chamber supports development of a long-term, strategic plan that will enable improvement in classroom teaching and academic performance. This should include increasing the minimum number of instructional hours, currently 1080 hours, required for a complete school year.
Teacher Preparation, Recruitment and Retention
Oklahoma and the nation have a teacher shortage. Oklahoma’s teacher preparation system needs to be improved in order to train, attract and retain high-quality teachers. We support legislation to:
- Reward teacher performance and experience
- Incentivize teachers to work in high priority areas
- Grow alternative pathways, such as Teach for America, that enhances the diversity of the teaching profession
Funding Transparency to Highlight Classroom Spending
Business leaders want education funding to focus on improving quality of instruction in the classroom. We support increasing funding transparency that makes it easier to understand per-pupil spending and ensure that as much funding as possible goes directly to classroom activity.
Longitudinal Data System
The business community encourages development and implementation of a new pre-K to 20 longitudinal data system that will measure performance and progress. A working system would measure the progress, challenges and success of our education systems from early childhood through higher education and into employment. Accurate data would enhance critical programmatic and funding decisions.
Public Charter Schools
The Chamber supports charter schools and education choices. Charter schools are public school and are required to adhere to Oklahoma statutes and performance standards. We support creating high-quality charter schools and enabling successful charter schools to grow. This includes online charter schools, schools designed to meet the needs of targeted underserved populations or schools that provide specific curriculum.
We support creating a solution to ensure all public schools are funded equitably, and we support creating a solution to address the facility needs of Oklahoma charter schools.
Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics
The Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics (OSSM) has consistently ranked among the nation's top public high schools. More than half of OSSM graduates stay in Oklahoma, and 85 percent are choosing STEM careers. The Chamber supports full funding of the OSSM FY 2020 budget request.
We support state funding for schools that serve homeless populations of students who can thrive in schools that target specific needs. We support schools like Positive Tomorrows, a private non-profit school in Oklahoma City exclusively serving homeless students with services that help stabilize their families, bring the students up to grade level and prepare them for success in public school.
School and Campus Safety
The Chamber will oppose legislation to permit carrying of firearms at early childhood, pre-K-12, college and career tech facilities. We will oppose efforts to remove or replace the ability of career tech and higher education institutions to regulate firearms on campus.
Mental Health Needs
Oklahoma students face a high level of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We support additional focus and support of initiatives to address the mental and behavioral health of students. This includes new innovation and services from the State Dept. of Education and Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
Concurrent Enrollment & Work-based Learning
The Chamber recognizes the excellent learning opportunities offered at our community colleges and career techs. Students should be allowed and encouraged to begin pursuit of a degree or other certification while still in high school. They reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a degree at a post-secondary institution, which reduces costs and speeds entry into the workforce. We support fully funding access for seniors and expanding access to concurrent enrollment for high school juniors as funding is available. We also support efforts to increase work-based learning opportunities that prepare young people for careers.
Higher Education – Reform and Investment
The Chamber recognizes a high quality higher education system is critical to economic growth. Although the system has faced significant financial challenges in recent years, it has not met the critical needs of many employers. We urge the system to pursue significant reform in order to better meet these needs. The business community supports the following reforms.
- Dramatic realignment of the governing structures to enable:
- Consolidation/reduction of facilities and administrative costs
- Increased on-line and alternative learning options
- Creation of a strategic, long-term higher education investment and funding plan
- Increased academic innovation, such as joint degree programs, shortened degree programs, workforce oriented certificates and degrees, and improved math outcomes to meet STEM degree demands
- Specific and Targeted funding to address critical workforce needs and economic development opportunities to be managed by a 3rd party or other agency, such as the Department of Commerce. All new funds to be used in the following areas:
- Creating more graduates with degrees in high-demand occupations such as engineering, technology, software and health care
- Creating new or expanding high-level research programs to attract and leverage new/additional federal or private funds
- Encouraging commercialization of new ideas and technologies that generate revenue and jobs
Oklahoma’s Promise is one of the most successful college access programs in the nation. We oppose legislation that would diminish the program’s focus on college access. We support efforts to increase the number of college graduates and to maintain the direct allocation of state funds, which ensures full funding of the scholarships earned by Oklahoma students.
Career Tech – Business and Industry Training
The Oklahoma CareerTech system is acknowledged as one of the top systems in the nation. CareerTech is a key ingredient in attracting industry to Oklahoma through its Training for Industry Program (TIP). The Chamber supports funding to assure training needs for new and existing industry. The business community urges the system to focus on producing a workforce that can meet the needs of high-demand occupations.
Career Readiness and Certification
The Chamber believes Oklahoma needs more of our workforce to have the opportunities to earn more post-secondary education, including certifications, degrees and other training targeting skills that are in demand and meet industry needs.
- We support key scholarship programs: Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grants (OTEG) and Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grants (OTAG)
- We support concurrent enrollment. These will help achieve the Complete College America goals by enabling more students enter college and obtain a college degree
- We support development of more work-based learning opportunities such as internships and apprenticeship programs
The Chamber will advocate on behalf of its members at the State Capitol throughout the 2020 legislative session in pursuit of making Oklahoma a top ten state for economic development. Read the full list at OKCChamber.com/legislative. To stay informed of these efforts, sign up for alerts at okcbusinessadvocate.com.
For more information, please contact a member of our Government Relations staff.