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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

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For Immediate Release: May 8, 2007

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior VP Arthur J. Rothkopf
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Senior Vice-President Arthur J. Rothkopf briefs members of the Senate and House Education Committees at the State Capitol on Tuesday.

Business/Education Leaders Say Oklahomans Need the Truth about Public Education

National and state business and education leaders briefed members of the Senate and House Education Committees Tuesday on Oklahoma’s poor showing in a recent education study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The report, called “Leaders and Laggards,” gave Oklahoma an overall grade of “D”. Burns Hargis, Vice Chairman of Bank of Oklahoma, called the report “disturbing.”

“This report is frankly a knife in the heart of our economic development efforts. It’s disturbing because we may think that this is just a tree that falls in the forest and nobody hears, but the fact is when you get into the recruiting business…your competitors are bringing all this to the fore.”

Arthur J. Rothkopf, Senior Vice-President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said Oklahoma students must be better prepared to compete globally. He said the entire nation is falling behind other countries when it comes to academic achievement.

“What’s at stake is nothing less than the continued success and competitiveness of the American economy and the continued viability of the American dream,” Rothkopf said. “Despite decades of reform efforts and many trillions of dollars in public investment, U.S. schools are not equipping our children with the skills and technology that they and the nation so badly need. Statistics don’t lie, and the story they tell is appalling.”

The lawmakers were told that Oklahoma was one of only 10 states to receive an “F” in academic achievement, and one of only two states to receive an “F” for truth in advertising about public education.

Dr. James Davis, Region 6 Executive Director of the U.S. Department of Education, said Oklahomans need to know the truth about public education.

“The educational leadership, the political leadership of the state of Oklahoma, need to take an honest look at what’s happening with education in Oklahoma. You can’t be saying things just to make people feel good,” Davis said. “You cannot allow leaders to mislead the public about what’s happening in Oklahoma public education. If you do that, the day will come when the state is going to suffer a great deal.”

Davis, who gave a briefing on state implementation and compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind
Act, urged Oklahoma to be bold and raise academic standards.

Senate Education Co-Chair Kathleen Wilcoxson agreed with Davis, and said the state needed to use the information presented to the committees to make critical improvements in public education.

“We cannot afford to gloss over the truth. Having the facts is an important first step,” said Wilcoxson, R-Oklahoma City. “With enough political will, we have the opportunity to be a model state in moving from a laggard to a leader in education.”

Senate Education Co-Chair Judy Eason McIntyre said failing to address problems in public education had implications for the entire state.

“Senator Wilcoxson and I have the same goal, and that is to improve the quality of education for every child in the state,” said Eason McIntyre, D-Tulsa. “That means taking an honest look at shortcomings in the system and finding new, creative ways to address them—otherwise we’ll continue to get the same results.”

Rep. Tad Jones, House Education Chair, said he appreciated the U.S. Chamber’s input at the hearing.

"In the past two years, we've made tremendous strides to improve Oklahoma schools, but clearly more work remains,” said Jones, R-Claremore. “To create a truly top-notch education system, we must be willing to listen to our critics, and today's hearing provided a forum for a lot of useful information."

To view the full report, go to www.uschamber.com/reportcard.

For more information contact:
Senator Wilcoxson's Office:  (405) 521-5618
Senator Eason McIntyre's Office: (405) 521-5598

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