Outgoing Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry Defends Education Record

Monday, January 3rd 2011, 9:40 pm
By: News On 6

Ashli Sims, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- One of Oklahoma's most popular governors will leave office next week.

Brad Henry walked into the governor's office promising a new day for Oklahoma education. Now that he's getting ready to walk out of office, some are wondering if he lived up to that promise.

"There's a lot about Governor Henry that I do appreciate," said Lynn Stockley, Tulsa Classroom Teachers Association.

Appreciated, but for some teachers, the education governor didn't live up to the title.

"I don't think the really, really hard decisions that needed to be made were made," Stockley said.

Governor Henry says he has a lot to be proud of: Oklahoma leads the nation in early childhood education and under his leadership, the state picked up the bill for teacher's health insurance.

Governor Henry vowed to raise Oklahoma teachers' salaries up to the regional average. The Governor's Office says teacher pay did increase by an average of $5,500 over Henry's tenure.

But teachers point out they're still ranked 48th in the nation for teacher pay and they still lag several thousand dollars behind the regional average.

"That's when I'm disappointed because not only are we not there, but we quit making strides," Stockley said.

"We can bring 300 million new dollars, additional dollars, into our educational programs," Governor Henry once said.

It took Oklahoma five years to hit that number. While lottery dollars increased, common education's share of the state budget actually shrunk under Henry's leadership. It's now two percent less than when Henry first took office.

But it's one of Governor Henry's last acts, coming out against State Question 744, which would have dramatically increased education funding, that tarnished his education reputation for some educators.

11/32010 Related Story: State Question 744 Rejected By Oklahoma Voters

"To become the face of the opposition that really was a slap in the face," Stockley said.

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard gave Governor Henry high praise for notable accomplishments in raising teacher salary and benefits. He gave the Governor a grade of A-.