For Immediate Release: February 21, 2007
Senator Glenn Coffee
Governor’s Pre-K Program for 3-Year-Olds Dies
in Senate Appropriations Committee
Gov. Brad Henry’s controversial plan to
create a state-funded pre-kindergarten program for three-year-olds
is dead for the next two years following a tie vote in the Oklahoma
Senate Appropriations Committee.
The bill, SB 518, died on an 8 to 8 vote Wednesday.
Under the Senate’s new power-sharing agreement, a bill
receiving a tie vote on “final action” in a committee
is dead for the next two years.
Senate Co-President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee said
the bill’s defeat does not signal the end of bipartisanship
in the evenly divided Senate. It is just an example of a policy
difference between the two parties on a specific proposal.
“I am proud of the eight members of the
Appropriations Committee who took this brave stand and said
our state should not commit to this expansion of government
at a time when we are facing a tight budget,” stated Coffee,
R-Oklahoma City. “But Senate Republicans continue to look
forward to working with Gov. Henry on areas where we can find
common ground, like fixing the Teacher Retirement System.”
Coffee said there is also significant division
among early childhood education advocates about whether Henry’s
plan is an effective one.
Republican Floor Leader Owen Laughlin, a member
of the Appropriations Committee, said the estimated $15 million
cost for the pilot program would be better spent on existing
public education programs.
“We would be better off using this money
to help pay for existing mandates the Legislature has placed
on our public schools,” said Laughlin, R-Woodward. “I
am concerned that this program could grow year after year, siphoning
funds away from common education.”
Appropriations Committee Co-Chairman Mike Johnson,
R-Kingfisher, noted that funds simply are not available to create
new programs this year.
“We have said over and over that we must
be cautious about creating or expanding programs this year because
the funds just won’t be available,” Johnson said.
“We must prioritize the budget and fund our needs before
fund our wants. For example, the state’s program for four-year-olds
and the full-day kindergarten program have not been fully funded.
Why should a new program be created to include three-year-olds
when there is not enough funding to pay for the current programs?”
For more information contact:
Senator Coffee's Office - (405) 521-5654