Lawmakers & Operatives Spin Death of Governor’s Pre-K Program for 3-Year-Olds

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.

Democrats obviously had different views on the defeat of the bill.

Governor Henry said The vote amounted to “pure politics”. “Republicans caucused right before this bill, whipped everybody into shape and came back and voted lockstep against the bill.”

Treasurer Scott Meacham said that scientific research on the benefits of enhancing brain development during the early childhood years is unanimous. “Most development occurs before age 3, then slows by age 5, Meacham said. “Making an investment during the formative years can pay big dividends on down the road, when students are learning academic skills,” he said.

“I would urge you to put aside your partisan rhetoric,” said Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, the bill’s author.

ODP Chair Lisa Pryor wrote in her morning rant” this morning:

“Yesterday all eight GOP members of the Senate Appropriations Committee voted against Oklahoma’s families and three-year olds.”

We love bi-partisanship.

RELATED:

OKLAHOMA City (AP) A bill to expand the number of Oklahoma children that qualify for Medicaid benefits passes the Senate Rules Committee today.

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