Stitt Abandons Effort to Force Shift of Dollars into Classrooms

Print More

Whitney Bryen / Oklahoma Watch

Two students at Ketchum Elementary School write on a dry-erase board during their speech class.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has abandoned a 2017 effort by the state to push schools to funnel more dollars into the classroom or risk consolidation.

Stitt on Friday renewed 29 executive orders from previous administrations. An executive order by former Gov. Mary Fallin addressing classroom spending was not among them. Under state statute, orders not renewed automatically terminate 90 days after a new governor’s inauguration.

The state Board of Education’s attorney in September rebuffed the order, arguing that “instructional expenditure” wasn’t clearly defined and that Fallin lacked the authority to issue such an order, Oklahoma Watch reported.

It also would have been outdated almost immediately by requiring the Education Department to calculate classroom spending before last year’s teacher raises went into effect.

Fallin signed her order in November 2017 as calls for increasing teacher salaries and spending more on public education in general were mounting. Some legislators and advocacy groups opposed a tax increase to cover the higher costs, saying the state should first identify any administrative waste in schools and redirect those savings to the classroom. In 2018 the Legislature approved a $480 million hike in taxes to pay for teacher pay raises. As a gubernatorial candidate, Stitt said he wouldn’t have signed the bill funding the pay increase, but he didn’t support a recall petition to rescind the taxes.

Stitt’s proposed 2020 budget included a $95 million increase for common education with most allocated for an additional across-the-board $1,200 teacher pay raise. The Legislature is still hammering out the education budget despite an April 1 deadline to finalize it.