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More Huge Cuts

March 3, 2016

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.

choice matters

 

 

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.

Next Steps

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.

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  1. Ellen Kanak
    March 3, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    I just have to say this–the governor looks so much more engaged with students in this post than she ever does when she goes to Oklahoma public schools after a natural disastor, saying, “We’re Oklahoma strong.” Where is her compassion for the poor, the sick, the hungry? I am very sad that our state has devolved to this lack of support for our core services.

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  2. March 3, 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Quit quoting the “wolf in sheep clothing”!! Until she is willing to stand up publicly and fight her political party and risk getting reelected her complaints mean nothing to this 27 year PUBLIC EDUCATOR!!! Talk is CHEAP!!!!

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    • March 5, 2016 at 7:12 am

      Not every person belonging to her party voted for her. I didn’t. Don’t assume all conservatives are for the demise of public education.

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  3. March 3, 2016 at 7:51 pm

    We only hear her complain after the fact. You bloggers stayed on top of everything that Baressi did. I hated her but at least you guys kept us informed here she stood. Please start holding our current Supt. accountable before the fact. Please??

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    • March 3, 2016 at 7:56 pm

      I do write about the things the current state superintendent says and does. There’s a lot she doesn’t say, and I choose not to speculate. Now that I’m a superintendent myself, I have private conversations with her that I treat as privileged. If I ever lose confidence in Joy, you’ll know. Including her press release here is just an extension of something I’ve been doing for four years – linking to statements from key leaders and adding little commentary. With situations this dire, I don’t need to say much. Nonetheless, I will welcome your comments on my posts.

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  4. March 3, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    I “lost confidence” with Joy the moment I read in the Tulsa Whorl endorsement that she would be the only candidate able to immediately communicate with this state’s legislature! Now, it is confirmed that she holds “private” talks with our illustrious governor; how ’bout public talks between them??? Alan, retired educator.

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  5. March 4, 2016 at 1:35 am

    Heartbroken, fist raised, ready to force the kind of change we need – even with the “leaders” we have. We need loud, daily (okay, hourly) in-your-face demands for action in the halls of the state capitol. Not later. Not a few. Not behind closed doors. Huge numbers. Every outraged, concerned, or fearful parent who yearns for their child to succeed and thrive. Every outraged, concerned, or fearful educator already holding on by their last thread. Now. Right now.

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  6. Beccie
    March 4, 2016 at 4:50 am

    I am becoming very discouraged about the future, not just for education but for Oklahoma as a state. I know we will survive this, but what shape will this state be in at the end of this catastrophe? I don’t see this legislature trying to solve the revenue failure. I see this legislature trying to use it for their own political gain. You know: “I cut taxes. I cut waste. I got vouchers for education.”

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  1. March 3, 2016 at 7:43 pm
  2. March 5, 2016 at 7:17 am
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