Oklahoma's Gubernatorial Candidates Discuss Education

Friday, November 3rd 2006, 10:06 am
By: News On 6

When "Oklahoma Votes" next Tuesday, the number one issue on their minds will be Oklahoma's schools.

The candidates for governor have fought each other on everything from classroom achievement to teacher pay.

News on 6 anchor Terry Hood asked both candidates about their plans for Oklahoma education. Brad Henry has been called the "education governor". He says since he took office, Oklahoma's early childhood education program has become the best in the nation. Henry says he's passed ACE - the Achieving Classroom Excellence initiative - to evaluate student and teacher performance.

And teacher pay is headed up, toward the national average. "These are the people we entrust our children to that really mold the minds of our future leaders and it's time we pay them the respect that they are due."

Challenger Ernest Istook says when it comes to using pay raises to retain good teacher, it's not just a matter of how much pay, but who gets it. "We also need to make sure that we give the best raises to the best teachers, not the incumbent's approach to give every teacher the identical raise whether they're a great teacher or a poor teacher. That's why we lose some of our best teachers because we don't have merit pay."

Istook also says recent reports of educational success were overstated. He wants more discipline in Oklahoma classrooms, and more parental involvement. And he says too many people focus on losing great teachers, but not keeping great students. "We want every child to get a good education, but if there's not a good-paying job waiting for them, they're going to leave Oklahoma."

Governor Brad Henry: "I think Oklahoma is on the move, and we're making great progress." Terry Hood: "Have we made as much progress as you'd hoped?" Governor Brad Henry: "You know, you never make as much progress as you hope. There's always, always room for improvement."

Henry says he could continue to improve Oklahoma schools with four more years in office. Istook says too much of the state's education budget gets lost in bureaucracy and never makes it to Oklahoma classrooms.

Henry says classroom funding is at its highest level in state history.