2.3.23 – okcfriday
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series detailing responses from Oklahoma state legislative leaders during a Greater Oklahoma City Chamber forum.
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Leaders of the Oklahoma Senate and House of Representatives gave their input on a variety of topics from reforms to make the state more competitive in education to bringing in new companies during a legislative kick-off hosted by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber.
The panelists included Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, House of Representatives Speaker Pro Tempore Kyle Hilbert and House Minority Leader Cyndi Munson.
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Making Oklahoma more competitive in education
Floyd linked the pandemic to the state’s learning gap, noting that educational experience of most 6- and 7-year-olds have been spent in quarantine.
There are no more snow days, Hilbert said. Parents become teachers when school can’t be in session.
“Things have changed a lot,” he said. “Reforms are necessary, but we’ve got to look at funding.”
In knocking doors during her campaigns, Munson said she heard from a lot of teachers. She met a Bethany teacher of the year who left the classroom because the educator wasn’t being treated like a professional.
“Teachers are trying to keep kids in chairs,” Munson said. “We have to be careful how we talk about teachers to keep from driving them away.”
Treat said parents should be given more choice in their children’s learning.
“Let’s empower education,” he said.
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How to attract new companies to Oklahoma
“I think we are doing a good job,” Hilbert said. “But, we have to continue to support our existing business.”
Investing in Oklahomans is the first step, Munson said.
“The most important resource,” she said, “is the people doing the work.”
She said hard conversations need to be had at the Capitol about such topics as diversity and health care.
“When companies look around, they want quality of life for their employees,” Munson said. “We have to take care of our people.”
A strong incentive package is necessary to bring in new business, Treat said.
“But the biggest hurdle we have is work force.”
When prospective businesses look at Oklahoma, they have a lot of questions, Floyd said.
“Education is one of the main things,” she said.
When the state loses out on a new company, Floyd said we should ask more questions as to why. One valuable inquiry would be are there any state policies that drove them away.
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Does the state need more funding for critical occupations
In past sessions, the Legislature has provided additional funding to push engineering, health care and teaching.
In order to elevate jobs, it goes back to education, Munson said. She said she would like to see Oklahoma Promise be expanded to students with disabilities.
Also, Munson said students who have made bad choices and have had run-ins with the law should have a chance to seek higher education.
Treat agreed that higher education was lacking.
“We need to educate kids where they can be employed,” he said.
Investments in education are paying off, Floyd said.
“We need to continue the success story for our state,” she said.
The nursing shortage is a big issue, Hilbert said. That was evident during the pandemic.
“People aren’t dying because don’t have enough business majors,” he said.
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Next week: How to spend $3 billion surplus and how to control recreational marijuana if state question is approved in June.