Oklahoma voters hired Kevin Stitt to serve as governor because they wanted change.
Oklahomans are tired of living in the same statistical neighborhood as West Virginia and Mississippi.
Near the bottom in categories that can make a difference in quality of life, but tragically, a perennial top five in categories that don’t.
Stitt campaigned on a pledge to make Oklahoma a “Top 10” state. In order to do this, he’s going to have to shake things up. Last week was a good example.
Stitt wants to replace Glen Johnson as the head of the state’s Higher Education system. Stitt said Johnson has been in politics for 37 years and has been the head of Oklahoma's Higher Ed for the past dozen years. He said Oklahoma has great universities but they are under-performing.
Stitt compared Johnson to John Blake, a former University of Oklahoma football coach who struggled and was eventually replaced by Bob Stoops.
Stitt’s call for new education leadership drew immediate push-back. The chair of the state board of Higher Regents, Jody Parker, said the group is “very pleased” with Johnson’s leadership. Johnson only answers to the unelected Board of Regents. Oklahoma’s constitution set it up that way.
Rep. Emily Virgin, D-Norman, said she doesn't trust the Republican Stitt to replace Johnson with someone who would make the interest of Higher Ed and students the top priority.
She fears he’d put one of his business buddies in the job.
Hmmm. Do you suppose the same argument could be made for how the Higher Regents have been selected over the years?
They were all appointed, were they not?
Regent Parker praised Johnson for working to keep tuition low at Oklahoma’s colleges and universities despite budget cuts made over the years by a Republican-controlled Legislature.
OK, Oklahoma may have low tuition, but why is it Texas has the jobs?
Which leads to a story a few months ago that didn’t grab as much attention as Stitt calling for Johnson to be replaced.
The story in the Journal Record said leaders of manufacturing and technology-related businesses said Oklahoma’s workforce needs drastic improvement in order to fill highly-skilled jobs.
If we’re going to be a Top 10 state, we’re going to need a Top 10 workforce.
So here’s my unsolicited advice for Gov. Stitt, take the personalities out of the argument.
Instead, make the argument about the need to change the system.
Oklahoma doesn’t need and can’t afford to have separate administrative systems supporting both Higher Ed and Career Tech.
I say we can’t afford, not for a lack of money, but because we apparently aren't getting the kind of return on investment taxpayers should demand and the state needs to create more and better-paying jobs.
Those folks who argue education is about more than jobs are probably somewhat comfortable in their current job. Degrees are necessary in some areas, but they’re also like winning awards.
They make you feel good, but they don’et necessarily pay the bills or feed your kids.
Other states have merged their Career Tech and community college systems.
Gov. Stitt and Oklahoma lawmakers should develop a five-year plan to streamline education administration and take the personalities out of the debate.
And they should hurry up, kickoff is only a week away.