Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chamber boosts reform efforts

A few years ago in Perspective, economist and Wall Street Journal editorial writer Stephen Moore explained why many chambers of commerce often act as lobbyists for bigger government ("Liberalism's Echo Chambers"). In a sidebar article, I shed some additional light on the subject by listing many of the tax consumers which populate Chamber of Commerce membership rolls in Oklahoma.

But let's give credit where credit is due. Whereas three big chambers of commerce in Tennessee recently joined forces with the teacher unions to kill school vouchers, the State Chamber of Oklahoma has in fact been very helpful in the area of education reform, including school choice.

Last year the State Chamber teamed up with several organizations (including OCPA) to host an Oklahoma City screening of the powerful documentary Waiting for 'Superman.' State Chamber president Fred Morgan even took to the pages of The Oklahoman:

The U.S. Chamber and The State Chamber have been working to shake up K-12 education so that every child is prepared for higher education or productive careers. We continue to advocate for common-sense reforms including greater accountability and innovation in schools, recognizing and rewarding effective teachers and principals who improve student achievement, and expanding educational options for all students.

Regarding those educational options, last year the Chamber came through with support for HB 3393, the special-needs scholarship bill (ultimately signed into law). And this year the Chamber supported SB 969, the opportunity scholarship bill (also signed into law).

Four months ago in The Oklahoman, I made the case that we're beyond the point where tinkering is going to do much good. Bold action is required. So naturally I was pleased last month when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for a Competitive Workforce released a report entitled The Case for Being Bold: A New Agenda for Business in Improving STEM Education. The Chamber report touches on many of the same themes addressed in a forthcoming OCPA report on digital learning.

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