Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry highlighted the importance of early-childhood education in his Feb. 5 State of the State address, proposing that Oklahoma extend the state’s voluntary preschool programs, which now serve only 4-year-olds, to include 3-year-olds.
“One of the most important things we can do for our children is to give them the tools early on to succeed in school,” said the governor, a Democrat who was re-elected this past November to his second term.
The governor has asked for $15 million in the fiscal 2008 budget for a pilot program to expand preschool to 3-year-olds, according to Paul Sund, the governor’s communications director. He said the state’s preschool programs currently serve 35,000 children, or about 70 percent of Oklahoma’s 4-year-olds.
The governor also promised to continue efforts to shore up the state’s poorly funded retirement system for teachers. Mr. Sund said the governor is proposing an infusion of $25 million into the retirement fund in fiscal 2008 but hopes to work with the legislature for a long-term solution to adequately pay for teachers’ retirement benefits.
A version of this article appeared in the February 14, 2007 edition of Education Week