MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

October 27, 2012

Proposed school funding boost tops $2B

Area educators, lawmakers wary until details are made clear

— Area school officials and legislators welcome a proposed $234 million increase in state funding but wonder what strings are attached.

The Oklahoma Board of Education agreed to seek more than $2 billion in state funding to Oklahoma schools for the 2014 school year. The request marks a $284 million increase from the 2013 school year’s $1.8 billion allocation. The requested increase is subject to the state Legislature’s approval.

In making the request, State Superintendent Janet Barresi said funds for schools would be tied to “detailed performance metrics,” including performance in reading and math, results of a statewide teacher effectiveness system and progress made by minority students.

“We’re promising a return on investment to Oklahoma taxpayers,” Barresi said in a media release.

Department of Education Communications Specialist Tricia Pemberton said that state public school allocations for the 2014 fiscal year will continue to be based on average daily membership and will not involve school performance.

Pemberton said other types of public school allocations could be based on performance.

“But those are still being determined,” she said.

Barresi said in the release that the state anticipates that part of the allocation increase would be used to raise local teacher salaries.

 Muskogee Public Schools Chief Financial Officer John Little said he’s “all for the increase in teacher pay.”

“But we’ll have to see how good it is and how bad it is,” he said. “It depends on how it’s tied. If it’s tied into the TLE system and if the OEA (Oklahoma Education Association) has any input.”

The TLE, or Teacher and Leader Effectiveness System, is a framework that evaluates teachers in such areas as classroom management, instructional effectiveness and leadership.

Little said the requested increase in public school allocations could return school funding to 2009 levels.

Fort Gibson Superintendent Derald Glover said districts should have more flexibility in how they spend their state money. Glover said he would want to use additional state aid to restore some positions that have been lost over the past few years. He said the district has lost about 25 certified and noncertified staff positions.

State Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, said the requested allocation marks a 10 percent increase in funding. He said that over the past four years, there had been an 18 percent cut in funding.

“This is playing catch up,” Cannaday said.

Cannaday, a member of  the House Common Education Committee, said he wants to make sure the Department of Education funding request includes a line-item budget.

“The line item designates how it will be spent,” he said. “I want to make sure it will go to education, not be sidetracked to virtual schools.”

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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