Senate Letter Offers Few Clues on Budget
Yesterday, CCOSA circulated a letter written earlier this week within the Oklahoma Senate. Senators Halligan (Education Subcommittee chair), John Ford (Education Committee chair), and Mike Mazzei (Finance Committee chair) ask for an increase of between “75 million to 100 million dollars.” They write:
The first priority will be to fulfill mandatory obligations such as FBA, etc. The next obligation is to provide additional funding for the implementation of reforms that have been adopted. We believe these reforms have the ability to significantly enhance the quality of education and they must be funded for maximum benefit. In addition to the above, it is time to provide incremental unencumbered funds to the local districts. Each district has different needs and it is important that they have discretion over the use of additional funds to meet the specific needs of their students.
What these senators propose is a middle ground between the paltry budget increase Governor Fallin proposed (13.5 million) and the detailed budget request from Superintendent Barresi (289 million). The “incremental unencumbered funds” would fall well short of the $234.7 million the SDE wants added for school district support.
Barresi issued a press release praising the budget request.
I’m not as excited. The proposal is about a third what was requested. It’s probably about a fifth of what is needed. Also, while the letter shows commitment to fund obligations (hopefully eliminating the need to ask for a supplemental budget again next year), the priorities given are widely open to interpretation. Remember last year, the legislature ended its session critical of the SDE and its use of funds. It is likely – if additional funding does make it to the education – that the use of new money will be highly proscribed. I doubt much at all will be left up to districts or the SDE.
This represents progress, but honestly, not much. Certainly not enough. The commitment to adequately fund services schools provide to students still falls far short.