Oklahomas State Government and the Chamber of Commerce - Building a Pipeline to Educate and Train the Future Workforce
By Linda MurphyThe State Chamber of Commerce President and CEO has been given a lead position in the creation of a state-controlled workforce education and training system. Corporate executives and their lobbyists from the State Chamber have long wanted to control the way Oklahoma children are prepared in our K-12 public school system. In the early 90’s, parents, and many teachers across the state rose-up in a grassroots campaign in opposition to the Chamber backed Outcomes Based Education (OBE) mandate and accompanying School-to-Work plan developed and pushed by the Clinton administration.
The CEO of IBM, Lou Gerstner joined President Clinton’s team and made it very clear that they wanted to remove the local elected school boards as he stated in the Wall Street Journal. That amounts to removing representative government and the parents’ voice through local school board meetings and elections.
Thousands of Oklahomans called, wrote, and met with their legislators to get a bill passed, which repealed OBE from our state law in 1995. OBE had been passed earlier into state law without full disclosure of the extreme changes it would bring. The public learned through grassroots efforts that OBE was aimed at creating “equal outcomes” for students instead of equal opportunity, along with other radical ideology. Governor Keating responded to the citizens’ concerns by supporting the repeal of OBE and by vetoing legislation for a state-controlled School-to-Work plan. The Governor strongly voiced his opposition to it and the State Chamber of Commerce was livid.
Quickly, the Chamber of Commerce and corporate community rallied back to the “drawing board” and working directly with the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) created the Common Core State Standards, which were rolled out and put into state law. The Standards were even copyrighted by the NGA and CCSSO, who exercised legal authority over what states did with them.
It is not hard to see why the Chamber leadership was once again very upset when, 20 years after the repeal of OBE, Oklahomans also repealed Common Core and the aligned testing from our state law. The former mayor of Oklahoma City spoke at a national Mayor’s conference, following the Common Core repeal, where he railed against what he considered to be the short-sighted Oklahomans, who stopped that top-down control system.
It did not take long for the Chamber to find a “champion” to run for State School Superintendent who posed during her campaign as an opponent of Common Core, even showing up for pictures at the anti-Common Core Rally at the State Capitol. She wasted no time in implementing the same methods, standards, and philosophies that Oklahomans statewide had rejected twice.
In 2018 she ushered in an 8-year plan approved by the U.S. Department of Education, which is intended to meet the goals for “equity” by setting different benchmarks for performance by race. It aligns with Common Core and the Obama administration’s education plans. She testified before a Congressional committee and told them that we want the federal government to hold us accountable.
Now in 2023 the Chamber has been given the reins to make changes in K-12 education allied with the state government. The Chamber CEO told KFOR TV “Workforce is the number one challenge facing businesses in our state. We need to get more Oklahomans career-ready to address our immediate needs, while also building a pipeline to educate and train the future workforce. The reorganization will also better align workforce systems and provide accountability for their responsibilities. Other states have successfully implemented similar plans that continue to pay dividends. This is the right move for Oklahomans, as well as the future of our state’s economy.”
In a previous article (http://oklahomaconstitution.com/ns.php?nid=662) I wrote about the “talent pipeline” the Chamber is referring to. “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a plan for workforce development called ‘Talent Pipeline’ Management. The pipeline starts with ‘Raw Material’ symbolized as ‘FE,’ which stands for the most common element on the earth, iron. This raw material (FE) is your child, the student, who is supplied by the parents. Are you willing to supply your child to be the ‘raw materials’ in this system which is planned to centralize control of education, training, jobs, and opportunities? What could possibly go wrong with this great plan? The Chamber’s (3.5 min.) video gives you an overview of a part of the planned system.”
Here is an outline of some of the plans for the State/Chamber Workforce Taskforce (KFOR TV):
- Evaluate the operations of the state’s current workforce delivery system, as well as those of other states, and develop recommendations to enhance coordination, efficiency, and effectiveness of workforce development efforts within and among stakeholder state agencies and local entities;
- Determine the best structure, operating procedures, and chain of command of the new workforce delivery system to achieve the goals;
- Guide the transition of all existing workforce programs, including but not limited to those funded by or operating pursuant to WIOA (federal -Workforce Investment Opportunity Act);
- Recommend a reporting structure that ensures accountability for public funds and program results;
Design a workforce delivery system structure adequate to developing the quantity and quality of the labor force required to meet the needs of employers currently and in the future;
- Identify ways to maximize federal and other funding, including but not limited to funds available (WIOA) Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
The State Chamber President and CEO said this top-down system is the “right move.” Giving the State Chamber of Commerce control would naturally be seen by their leadership as being the right move …. because the changes coming will be to the benefit of corporations.
Unfortunately, it will involve further erosion of the local school boards’ power and parental rights. The idea of giving authority to so called “stakeholders” means taking it from the hands of local elected officials and parents. The State Chamber of Commerce’s pivoting from drawing new business and supporting business in our state to taking over control in K-12 education and training is the wrong direction for Oklahoma!
Linda Murphy was Oklahoma Governor Keating’s Education Advisor, Deputy Commissioner of Labor for Workforce Education and Training, Administrator of the Eastern Oklahoma Department of Labor, Member of the State Job Training Coordinating Council, and the Governor’s School-to-Work Council. She was a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1994, 1998 and 2018. Murphy was appointed by Governor Keating as Secretary of Education, but was denied confirmation by the majority Democrat Education Committee, following her 49.5% statewide vote in 1994. She also served on the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women. More recently, she has served as chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party’s Committee on Education. She is chairman of the OK Educators Network. You may contact Linda at: lindalearn1