School Funding Cuts Expected to Deepen

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Another $19 million could be cut from Oklahoma’s public schools as early as next month, potentially raising the total mid-year revenue reduction to $66 million.

The additional cut would fall on top of $47 million in cuts enacted last week by the state Board of Education, acting on advice from state schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister.

Shawn Hime, director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, said if additional cuts occur, as projected by the state Board of Equalization, he would not be surprised to see layoffs at schools. State Schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister last week predicted that some schools could close.

The additional cut would come from a fund called the “Lottery, Education Reform Revolving Fund.” It is fed by various sources, including personal and corporate income taxes, sales and use taxes, tribal and horse track gaming revenue, tobacco taxes and specialty license plate sales. Money in the fund is authorized by the Legislature but not allocated out of the general revenue fund; instead it goes into the state’s education funding formula, which distributes money to school districts on a per-pupil basis.

The fund was budgeted this year for $738.6 million, but began falling short in November, said John Estus, spokesman for the Office of Management and Enterprise Services. In December, the Board of Equalization projected a $19 million shortfall in the fund for the year, which Estus said would have to be matched by a comparable budget cut.

The reduction approved by the Board of Education last week included $25 million in cuts from the state’s funding formula, or about $23 per pupil. The additional cut would bring the total loss to about $39 a student.

Regarding layoffs at schools, Hime, of the school boards association, said, “The formula itself is money that schools use for day-to-day operations. That’s teacher salaries, support staff salaries, utilities and other overhead.”

It’s unclear whether lawmakers will use the state’s reserve fund, commonly called the “rainy day fund,” to offset any of this year’s mid-year budget cuts. That fund has $385 million.

Last week’s education board action was spurred by a 3 percent cut ordered to all state agencies in December to offset $177 million in lost revenue.

State Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger at the time said the state’s revenue failure was due to the low cost of oil. Other groups and lawmakers have put more emphasis on the state cutting income taxes and providing tax breaks and business incentives.

Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, said lawmakers will need to balance the desire to offset some of this year’s mid-year cuts with a projected $901 million budget gap in fiscal 2017.

“I know we will not take all of the rainy day fund in this fiscal year to have a cushion for us next year,” Sears said.

  • Sam

    We need to legalize medical Mary Jane that would more than make up for the tax cuts and cuts to schools.

  • Jim hudgens

    If we are serious about more money for education let’s start with school consolidation. There are 77 counties in the state and over 600 school districts. Better use of existing funds would make raising additional funds much more palatable.

    • BryanHR

      Let’s start with baby steps. Let’s choose 1 school superintendent for each county with less than 25,000 population. That’s 40 of the 77 counties. Let’s appoint 1 school superintendent per 25,000 population for all but the top 3 counties, which is 34 counties.
      Yes, I realize that school district boundaries are completely different than county boundaries but you could group as many adjoining school districts together as needed to equal 25,000 people… kind of like the state representative districts are drawn.

      Give these county school superintendents about 3 years to consolidate a support staff that he needs to properly administer all school districts in his county so that all payroll and payables for all school districts in the county are under 1 roof.

      Since school district boards are voluntary and not paid, they could continue to exist as is, but they would have much less say about how schools are run financially. They would jointly select the county superintendent.

      This would save tens of millions of dollars a year that could then be used to raise teachers’ starting pay and continuing pay to compete with neighboring states.

    • Jim

      You aboutto check your numbers there’s not over 600 districts there’s less than 505,Consolidated schools started heavily about 4 years ago.And just what is that magical number for consolidation I would like to know?

      • JM

        Nobody knows the magical number…thats what they are trying to figure out. The prior response was referring to the number of Superintendents, not districts. You know we have problems when we have a Superintendent in a district with a total of 80 students and makes 90k a year….yet my wife makes barely poverty teaching 3rd grade with overflowing classrooms and supplies purchased by me through my job. Having just moved here from Texas, I was shocked to see just how broke our schools are and the wasteful spending that goes to support an alarming nuber of Superintendents. To put it in persoective, OK has nearly 600 Superintendents compared to that of TX at 1,000. With OK having a population of 3.5 million compared to 24 million in Texas, it’s pretty obvious where the cuts need to be. As opposed to laying off teacher making 30k a year, lets start trimming from the top. It’s sad when we are ranked 49th in teacher pay yet we are in the top 10 in Superintendent pay.

  • James

    Superintendents in Oklahoma should be making no more then 65,000 a year, because Warden’s in the prison system make between 65,000 – 75,000 a year and they have a bigger responsibility. The principals in the school system is a joke paying them 55,000 – 65,000, and have a principal at the Elementary, Junior high and High school only need one Principal to run all three schools that will save money. All in All cut down on Superintends and Principals that will save the State millions of dollars yearly. The state could hire prior military, Cheif of security and any police officers to be a Principal.

  • Kelli

    Extracurricular activities CANNOT be taken away. I don’t know any parent who would want to send their child to a school without sports or arts. Students who participate in these activities actually look forward to school. Cutting sports, band, or clubs will make kids not want to go to school and therefore won’t pay attention in school. Besides, if a student goes to college and wants to be in a sport or the college band, they won’t have any experience and will have to learn IN COLLEGE. That’ll make our teams inexperienced.
    The people who earn money from choking schools until they close are the only people who gain something out of this. If we want our kids to succeed, we must keep the activities they enjoy.