More Huge Cuts
My morning started with an email explaining that due to last year’s House Bill 2244, changing the way motor vehicle tax revenue was to be collected and distributed, some districts were being severely shorted from last year to this year. In other words, my district didn’t fare well. That was the first huge cut of the day.
Then after we had a retirement luncheon here, we received notice from the state that the anticipated additional 3% cut in state aid would actually be 4%. With the Oklahoma State Department having used every possible strategy to limit the impact of this January’s 3% cut, this one will be much harder to absorb.
I don’t have a lot of professional words right now. I’ll just let a few items from my inbox fill tonight’s post.
First is the press release from Superintendent Hofmeister.
Superintendent Hofmeister calls further education funding cuts ‘brutal, heartbreaking’
Posted by SDEmedia on Thu, 03/03/2016 – 2:44pm
OKLAHOMA CITY (March 3, 2016) — State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister made the following comments today regarding the state of Oklahoma’s deepening budget cuts.
“This is a brutal time for schools. A second General Revenue failure means schools will have lost nearly $110 million since the start of the spring semester alone, and that does not take into account next fiscal year, which looks equally bleak. Efforts that districts are making to cope with these cuts today will further impact the next school year, as they are forced to significantly deplete their cash-fund balances.
“The Oklahoma State Department of Education has worked hard to minimize the cuts’ impact on instruction, but we are no longer able to soften the blow. Many rural districts indicate they will immediately initiate a four-day school week for the remainder of the school year. Educators are facing heartbreaking decisions that ultimately will affect students in the classroom. Our schoolchildren are the ones who will pay the steepest price.”
Brutal and heartbreaking are good ways to describe this. I’d add that it’s infuriating as well. Week by week, those of us leading districts are trying to keep our districts solvent based on budgets that were written after the Legislature gave us a “flat budget” last May that was based on numbers that have failed to meet expectations.
Meanwhile, the Legislature shows no interest in tapping into the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
If this isn’t a fiscal emergency, what is?
Meanwhile, the governor continues encouraging legislators to maintain the most recent tax cuts. She also continues pushing for vouchers.
If the state continues to suck funding from public schools while its leader continues pushing for tax dollars to go to private schools with no accountability, how can we find a middle ground? I’d like to believe she cares about this crisis. I know many legislators who do, and my heart goes out to them for what they’re trying to do to help us. I just wish the person who signs bills into law would give me one reason to believe that she’ll sign anything that could stem the tide of this disaster.
Shortly after Hofmeister’s announcement, OSSBA sent out their own statement:
“Today’s budget announcement means schools will lose another $93 per student – a total of $158 less per student than schools budgeted for at the beginning of the year.
Now is the time to get serious about a long-term funding plan for public education that will ensure a high-quality education for the nearly 700,000 public school students.
Oklahoma’s students and their families deserve a commitment from state policy leaders to halt conversation around new mandates, vouchers and any other policies that will add costs or divert resources away from public schools.
Our per-student funding in Oklahoma is dead last in the region and one of the worst in the country. We have a historic teacher shortage, class sizes are increasing and schools are cutting courses. Simply put, our classrooms are in crisis.
Education isn’t a partisan issue. The budget decisions looming over the next few months will affect our children, our communities and our state for years to come. There’s no margin for error. We must work together to protect our students and their education.”
We need short-term and long-term solutions. If state leaders want to bleed schools dry, then they’re on their way. If they don’t, they need to prove it.
Finally, I received this from CCOSA:
Today, Oklahoma’s Secretary of Finance, Preston Doerflinger, declared a second revenue failure for our state’s general revenue (GR) fund. As part of that declaration, Secretary Doerflinger initiated additional automatic general revenue funding cuts to all agencies of 4% for the remainder of FY 2016. These reductions are on top of the current 3% reductions to GR which began in January of 2016.
How much funding has been cut as a result of today’s announcement?
The total of the 4% GR reduction for Common Education announced today is $ 62,372,399.04.
What could this reduction look like in your school?
Assuming that the State Department of Education takes the total funding reduction announced today out of the school funding formula rather than making cuts to health insurance (FBA) and/or any remaining SDE Activity Funds – it would appear that today’s cut could result in per weighted average daily membership (WADM) funding being reduced by approximately $55.00 per WADM.
If, however, the FBA reductions are not included / reduced through the school funding formula – today’s cut could result in a formula reduction of roughly $ 40.00 per WADM.
We hope this information helps you to better understand and plan for the coming automatic funding reductions. Please know that these numbers are only estimates.
Actual cuts to schools may vary based on final action by the Oklahoma State Board of Education.
Once a final determination is made on the process for the implementation of revenue reductions, we will provide additional information.
What this means is that we’ll find out shortly the exact dollar amount of our next cut. We may only have estimates at this point, but we know it’s real, and it’s spectacular. Pick an adjective. Pick any member of the legislature and call. Hell, call the governor. Tell her public schools matter too.