Oklahoma's next governor 

The speculation has begun for the open governor position in 2010. Be it a Republican or Democrat, the next governor will face many of the same obstacles Oklahoma governors have battled for decades. 

Our education system's performance has never been rated anything better than poor to, at best, mediocre. Despite the efforts of Gov. Henry Bellmon and House Bill 1017, Oklahoma still has far too many school districts. ACT scores and graduation rates paint a pretty dismal picture for the future of far too many of our children. Despite all the talk, studies and consultants, and the fact the school year " and day " were designed for an agrarian society, we have yet to lengthen the school year or school day.

The Oklahoma education system also doesn't require nearly enough math, science or foreign language education at a time when competition makes these subjects essential for our kids to compete with students in the burgeoning economies of India, China and many other nations. Few, if any, elected leaders in Oklahoma, and anywhere else in America, seem willing to touch the political third rail " the relationship of teacher pay and performance.  

The new governor will also have to come to grips with many of the things we should be most embarrassed and concerned about: a huge and growing corrections department, women in prison, teen pregnancy, divorce, obesity and the general poor health many Oklahomans face. Then, there is the issue of Oklahoma's roads and bridges, which have been labeled some of the worst, if not the worst, in the nation. 

Oklahoma has been fortunate the last few years. Oil and gas prices have been at or near record levels and filled the state treasury with more money than anyone ever imagined possible. While the lottery has generated new revenue for the state, it has performed far below what was promised. Oklahoma citizens and businesses are paying record amounts of taxes (thanks in large part to the economic prosperity generated by the energy industry) so the Legislature has had a field day spending money. Our government has spent billions of dollars every year for decades, yet our state is still near the bottom in all too many measures of success.

We're fortunate to have dodged the economic problems much of the nation is currently experiencing. It's time for Oklahoma to elect a governor who will really lead the charge of accomplishment instead of just spending. As you listen to the candidates who hope to occupy the governor's office, listen for who actually offers solutions rather than just pointing out the problems. We know what the problems are: They are the same problems we've had for decades. It's time to elect a governor who finally solves them.

Orza is dean of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University. He ran for governor as a Republican in 1990 and as a Democrat in 2002.

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Vince Orza

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