A Disappointing Budget Request
Governor Fallin proposed a budget for the state this week. It included supplemental funding for education, as well as a slight increase for education for Fiscal Year 2014. Unfortunately, her proposals neither come close to what Superintendent Barresi has requested nor what is actually needed.
Barresi requested: $37.7 million to be added to the current school year budget. This would offset shortfalls in several key line items –
- $15 million for ACE Remediation
- $6.5 million for Reading Sufficiency
- $8.5 million for health benefits
- $5.9 million for the school funding formula
- $1.8 million for the Student Longitudinal Data System
Fallin proposed: $8.5 million – just enough to cover benefits
What is needed: At least $37.7 million – Making up for the benefits gap is a no-brainer. But school districts are operating under mandates that have not been funded. Some of these mandates – ACE (high school graduation) and RSA (3rd grade retention) directly affect students. Failing to fund these programs is a huge mistake.
Next Year’s Budget
Barresi requested: $289 million in funding for FY14 over FY13, an increase of 12.4 percent. This included increased support for several line items –
- $234.7 million for financial support of public schools (money directly going into the funding formula)
- $2.1 million for instructional materials
- $2.3 million for adult education programs
- $1.5 million for alternative education
- $2.2 million for Education Leadership Oklahoma (National Board scholarships and bonuses)
- $23.6 million for health benefits
- $1 million for Oklahoma Parents as Teachers
- $13.5 million for reform implementation
- $1.5 million for competitive grants for schools
- $1.6 million for agency operations
- $5 million for testing
Fallin proposed; $13.5 million for reform implementation. This represents an increase of 0.2 percent over last year’s education budget. As CCOSA has pointed out, Fallin requested increases of 6.2 percent for Commerce and Tourism and 4.4 percent for Human Services. She is also proposing another tax cut.
What is needed: Barresi’s request is a good start. It prioritizes funding schools’ functions at a level that was in place a few years ago. While the increase in the cost of testing is disconcerting and the cost of implementing some of her reforms is understated, it is critical that schools get the basic support that they need to provide services to the students they serve. Teachers deserve raises. Schools should have up-to-date textbooks and technology. Site-based professional development should be reinstated. Districts should be able to reserve their bond funds for capital improvements and transportation needs, rather than subsuming other operational costs into those proposals.
While I don’t agree with everything Barresi is asking for, I will give her credit for trying to pay for the work that schools do. I wish I could give Fallin that much credit right now. Hopefully the legislature will be more responsive to the needs of Oklahoma’s students and schools.