We are in the last stretch of this year’s legislative session and negotiators are moving closer to finalizing a budget agreement. For the past few weeks, common education has remained at the forefront in the final budget discussions. This week, Senate Republicans announced a plan to invest $200 million into classroom funding while also showing fiscal restraint by saving $200 million this year. This action is in direct response to classroom teachers and administrators voicing their preference for additional funds to be used in the classroom and the flexibility to use that money in the best ways to meet the needs of each local district.
Funneling $200 million into classroom funding would allow schools to significantly reduce class sizes, hire counselors and other support staff, purchase textbooks and other needed classroom supplies, or even give teacher pay raises at the local level if the district chooses. Because that choice would be up to the local schools, it would provide the flexibility many school districts have been requesting since last year’s teacher walkout.
The Senate budget plan is fiscally responsible because it saves $200 million and combined with a deposit this year to the Rainy Day Fund in excess of $400 million, the state would have nearly $1 billion in savings for to cushion against future downturns. That represents half of the governor’s goal to save $2 billion over the next four years.
The Senate plan will also help the Governor and House achieve their goal to provide a $1,200 teacher pay raise. Budgeting $200 million more for education funding allows for the $70 million required to give a $1,200 teacher pay raise, while providing an additional $130 million in new funding to lower class sizes, hire mental health counselors and other support staff, purchase supplies or provide other needs that are prioritized by the local districts.
The Senate plan delivers on the goal to provide more flexibility and local control for school districts. Senate Republicans have said that last year’s historic $460 million investment in public education was not a ‘one-and-done’ and the proposed $200 million in new funding for common education delivers on that commitment.
If you have any questions about state government or concerns about legislation, please do not hesitate to contact my Senate office at the Capitol by calling (405) 521-5555 or writing to me at Senator Marty Quinn, 2300 North Lincoln Blvd. Rm. 419, State Capitol Building, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. I can also be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.