OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Brad Henry and legislative budget leaders agreed Friday to appropriate more than $10 million to public schools in a supplementary budget that they said is the first installment of a larger package to help public schools pay their bills through the end of the fiscal year June 30.
The agreement, expected to be voted on by the House and Senate next week, includes $10 million to cover a shortfall in an education fund and $1.5 million for the Academic Achievement Award program. It also includes $3.1 million for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to supplement delayed federal funding.
The agreement falls far short of the $41.6 million supplemental budget requested by the state Department of Education. Henry said the initial appropriation addresses public schools’ immediate budget needs, “but it is only a first step.”
“It is critical that we deliver additional funds to common education as quickly as possible to address the remaining school funding shortfall,” Henry said. But the first priority was to get additional money to school districts before April budget checks had to be cut.
“This initial payment ensures our schools will get their full funding for April,” said Rep. Ken Miller, R-Edmond, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.
“There will be another supplemental coming,” said Henry’s communications director, Paul Sund. “We know they need more money. We want to give them more money.”
Roy Bishop, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said school administrators are “appreciative that at least they’re thinking a little bit about us.”
But Bishop said the supplemental money is not enough to stop school administrators from putting contingency plans in place to lay off teachers if the shortfall deepens.
He also said the size of the supplemental agreement may reflect growing concern among budget negotiators about declining revenue and a slowing economy.
“In a tight budget year we know we have to work harder to put together the pieces of the budget puzzle and we are committed to doing our part to make certain our schools are on strong financial footing,” said Sen. Johnnie Crutchfield, D-Ardmore.
Superintendent of Education Sandy Garrett filed the supplemental request to meet gaps in the funding authorization for public schools.
Oklahoma’s House Bill 1017 fund is expected to contribute $573.7 million to common education this fiscal year, less than the anticipated $610.8 million, according to Office of State Finance projections. That is a difference of about $37 million.
The fund is a revenue stream included in the massive 1990 education reform law that overhauled the way Oklahoma schools are funded. It is funded primarily by individual and corporate income taxes as well as sales taxes.
Education officials are also seeking an additional $4.6 million to make up for a shortfall in state lottery revenue.
But the projected education shortfall has decreased since the supplemental funding request was filed and may decline further, officials said. Sund said budget negotiators will have a better idea of the size of the education funding shortfall next month after March’s revenue collections are known.