Education & Workforce Development Priorities

2022 Greater OKC Chamber Education & Workforce Development Priorities

STATE ISSUES

Early Childhood Education
The Chamber steadfastly supports early childhood education and full funding of pre-K and kindergarten programs. Targeted spending on our youngest children is simply a smart investment. The Chamber supports legislative initiatives to maintain early childhood education programs.

Long-Term, Strategic Education Funding
The Chamber supports development of a long-term, strategic plan that will enable improvement in classroom teaching and academic performance. This should include increasing the minimum number of instructional hours, currently 1,080 hours, required for a complete school year. We also support ongoing funding to enable schools to achieve targeted classroom sizes.  

Teacher Preparation, Recruitment and Retention
Oklahoma has a teacher shortage. Oklahoma needs to improve our teacher preparation pipeline systems to train, attract and retain more high-quality teachers. We support legislation to:

  • Reward teacher performance and experience
  • Incentivize teachers to work in high priority areas and receive training to help them prepare for challenges facing students such as being English Language Learners, living in high poverty and from urban areas
  • Grow alternative pathways, such as Teach for America, that enhance the diversity of the teaching profession
  • Provide additional pre- and post-school year training for alternatively certified teachers
  • Support specialized training initiatives such as the Foundation for OKCPS Bilingual & Diversity Teacher Pipeline program and UCO’s Urban Teacher Preparation Academy
  • Increase access to STEM education and training opportunities

Longitudinal Data System
The business community encourages development and implementation of a new pre-K to 20 longitudinal data system that will measure performance and progress. A working system would measure the progress, challenges, and success of our education systems from early childhood through higher education and into employment. Accurate data would enhance critical programmatic and funding decisions.

Learning Loss due to the Pandemic
The Chamber acknowledges challenges of the pandemic, including remote learning and technology access, led to learning loss for many students. We know that prior to the pandemic not enough students were achieving advanced or proficient test scores and 2020-21 test scores indicate lower performanceIt is urgent to dramatically improve learning at all levels. The Chamber supports sustained help for additional and enhanced learning opportunities that utilize recognized best practices. We believe it is important to help students catch-up by having more time on-task, including longer school days and additional instruction days.

Public Charter Schools
The Chamber supports charter schools and education choices. Charter schools are public schools and are required to adhere to Oklahoma statutes and performance standards. We support creating high-quality charter schools and enabling successful charter schools to grow. This includes online charter schools, schools designed to meet the needs of targeted underserved populations, or schools that provide specific curriculum.

We support ensuring that all public schools are funded equitably, and charter schools have access to funding for infrastructure and facilities.

Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics
The Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics (OSSM) has consistently ranked among the nation's top public high schools. More than half of OSSM graduates stay in Oklahoma, and 85 percent are choosing STEM careers. The Chamber supports full funding of the OSSM budget request.

Specialty Schools
We support state funding for schools that target the specific needs of students experiencing homelessness. This includes schools like Positive Tomorrows, a private non-profit school in Oklahoma City exclusively serving homeless students with services that help stabilize their families, bring the students up to grade level, and prepare them for success in public school.

School and Campus Safety
The Chamber will oppose legislation to permit carrying of firearms at early childhood, pre-K-12, colleges, and career tech facilities. We will oppose efforts to remove or replace the ability of career tech and higher education institutions to regulate firearms on campus.

Teacher Wellness and Health
We believe our schools should provide a safe and healthy work and learning environment. This includes enabling schools to prevent spread of illness and minimize teacher absences by encouraging all school personnel to take precautionary steps including getting vaccinated.

Mental Health Needs
Oklahoma students face a high level of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We support initiatives to address the mental and behavioral health of students. This includes new programs and services from the State Dept. of Education and Dept. of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Concurrent Enrollment & Work-based Learning
The Chamber recognizes the excellent learning opportunities offered at our four-year universities, community colleges and career techs. Students should be allowed and encouraged to begin pursuit of a degree or other certification while still in high school. They reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a degree or certificate at a post-secondary institution, which reduces costs and speeds entry into the workforce. We support fully funding access for seniors and expanding access to concurrent enrollment for high school juniors as funding is available. We also support efforts to increase work-based learning opportunities that prepare individuals for careers.

Higher Education – Reform and Investment
The Chamber recognizes a high-quality higher education system is critical to economic growth. Oklahoma City continues to struggle with meeting the workforce needs of its employers, particularly in Critical Occupations (as defined by www.oklahomaworks.gov/criticaloccupations) that require a higher education degree. The business community, governments and higher education continue to face financial challenges and we all must be innovative and flexible to meet the needs of our customers and achieve our mission. This should include development of partnerships that produce tech transfer and research partnerships to generate private, federal and foundation revenue.

We urge the higher education system to pursue significant reform to better meet employer needs. The business community supports the following reforms.

  • Higher education funding specifically directed to produce graduates with degrees in Critical Occupations such as engineering, nursing and IT/software
  • Increased accountability and annual metrics that motivates institutions to increase the number of graduates in Critical Occupation degrees by 20% within four years
  • Innovative approaches to curriculum and degree offerings, such as reducing non-critical occupation degree programs and creation of non-degree programs/certificates that create a workforce with needed skills
  • Efforts to maximize funding through consolidation and sharing of services, programs and instructors
  • New partnerships between four-year institutions, CareerTechs and community colleges that enable schools to share resources, staff and facilities

Oklahoma’s Promise
Oklahoma’s Promise is one of the most successful college access programs in the nation. We oppose legislation that would diminish the program’s focus on college access. We support efforts to increase the number of college graduates and to maintain the direct allocation of state funds, which ensures full funding of the scholarships earned by Oklahoma students.

Career Tech – Business and Industry Training
The Oklahoma CareerTech system is acknowledged as one of the top systems in the nation. CareerTech is a key ingredient in attracting industry to Oklahoma through its Training for Industry Program (TIP). The Chamber supports funding to assure training needs for new and existing industry. The business community urges the system to focus on producing a workforce that can meet the needs of high-demand occupations.

Career Readiness and Certification
The Chamber believes Oklahoma needs more of our workforce to have the opportunities to earn more post- secondary education, including certifications, degrees and other training targeting skills that are in demand and meet industry needs.

  • We support key scholarship programs: Oklahoma Tuition Equalization Grants (OTEG) and Oklahoma Tuition Aid Grants (OTAG)
  • We support concurrent enrollment. These will help achieve the Complete College America goals by enabling more students enter college and obtain a college degree
  • We support development of work-based learning opportunities such as internships and apprenticeship programs

FEDERAL ISSUE

Removing Red Tape for Child Nutrition
The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber recognizes that federal nutrition programs play a key role in keeping children in the Oklahoma City metro fed. The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act hasn’t been updated in over a decade. The Chamber supports removal of red tape and continued flexibility to feed children safely and efficiently.

For more information, please contact a member of our Government Relations staff.