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Another Bad Decision

July 20, 2012

Once again, the leaders at the Oklahoma State Department of Education are showing what they do with discretion. As this Leadership Post from Superintendent Barresi explains, public education received no increase in funding this year in spite of an increase in enrollment of 11,000 students. Blame the legislature for that one (as I did in May), but what comes next is truly baffling.

The SDE has made the conscious decision to withhold a greater portion of state aid for schools. As the Tulsa World explains, “the education department withheld nearly $64 million, or 3.52 percent, of all state aid, compared to the $41 million, or 2.26 percent it kept in reserve at the beginning of 2011-12.” The article is a great read, with typical flimsy excuses from SDE staff, comments from Tulsa-area administrators about the real impact of this decision, and even a caustic remark from a legislator who is frustrated with all of this.

The World goes on to discuss the fact that all the large districts in the Tulsa area will receive less aid than last year. In short, the SDE tells districts not to worry – the money will come at the mid-term adjustment. In the meantime, it would be irresponsible for districts to set staffing levels based on what might happen in December. Districts that are growing at a fast pace will be teaching more students with less money. All of this occurs in the backdrop of numerous sea-change reforms to public education, all of which are costing school districts tremendous amounts of money.

This is just another example of bad decision making at the SDE. To refresh your memory, in the last few months:

  • They botched the bid process for TLE funding, so that it will now cost schools extra money;
  • They used federal jobs money to hire 60 REAC3H Coaches for school districts, promising them employment for three years although funding ends after one;
  • They tried to divert money from textbook allocation to their activity fund, but legislators in Barresi’s own party called them on it;
  • They switched accountability systems to match Florida’s A-F report cards and then had to bring in former SDE employees to run No Child Left Behind Report Cards – which didn’t even get to schools until April (instead of the customary October release);
  • They posted student records on their website, insisted they had done nothing wrong, and then caved anyway;
  • They’ve handled personnel situations poorly – both with incumbent and new staff; and
  • Their curriculum team is down to bare bones, while the communications staff is expanding at the rate of suburban school enrollment.

Did I miss anything?

School board members, administrators, and parents need to get involved. Call your legislators. Call the governor. Heck, call the SDE. Make them listen. Let them know that the people of Oklahoma did not elect them so that they could wreck public education due to incompetence. I’m angry and embarrassed that these are the people leading public education. If you’re paying attention, you should be too.

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  1. Elise Robillard
    July 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm

    You missed that Dr. Barresi and her “team” at the SDE have zeroed out monies for professional development for teachers. You missed that she zeroed out the budget for paying NBCT stipends to teachers, forcing the Legislature to step up and fill the gap. You missed that she has changed the Education Leadership Conference in July into her own pep rally with some good sessions, but not nearly as valuable an experience as it used to be (but lots of prayer to open its sessions). She has also zeroed out the AP bonus monies that helped districts fund AP classes.


  2. Kyle
    July 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Not only did she withhold the NBCT stipends, but soon afterward did she not give herself and staff a bonus/pay raise? I’m fuzzy on the details but that seems like what I remember.


  3. Karen
    July 24, 2012 at 9:52 am

    And what did we expect when a non educator was elected to this position?


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