MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 31, 2013

School funds uncertain

Changes could cut fed kindergarten money

(Continued)

— Preparing for worst,

hoping for best

The mandated full-day kindergarten could result in a number of things, including keeping teachers from getting pay raises and increasing class sizes.

Little said there is a “best case scenario.”

“The bond issue passes May 14, this law (HB1395) passes, 25 teachers decide they want to retire and ad valorem tax revenue goes up — then I hit the best case of every scenario,” he said.

MPS will have a bond issue on the May ballot that won’t raise taxes, Little said.

That bond issue could give Little $1 million more to use toward the basics — teachers, supplies, electric bills etc., he said.

“If it passes, we can get the step increase for all staff, add the teachers we want for new programs, and keep our class sizes the same,” Little said.

Local legislators

support bill

A secretary for the Oklahoma State Senate said Thursday that HB1395 wasn’t on the agenda last week. That means it can’t be read in committee this week and taken to the floor for a vote.

Sen. Earl Garrison, D-Muskogee, is on the Senate Education Committee, but hasn’t yet seen HB1395.

Garrison said Friday afternoon he was notified of some bills being added to the Education Committee’s agenda late Thursday night, though he did not have a list of which bills were added.

Garrison said he thinks they’ll get HB1395 heard in time, but if not, they’ll try to do the same thing they did in 2012 to postpone the mandate.

“Last year, we got it extended a year, but it would be a nightmare, not only in Muskogee, but across the state and especially for growing districts,” Garrison said. “We’d have to try and get an amendment attached to another bill and give them another year’s grace.”

State Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum, is on the House Education Committee that handled HB1395 before it was passed 82-9 in the House.

Cannaday said he hopes the Senate recognizes the need to pass HB1395.

“This is a very critical bill. I hope everybody understands in the Senate that, if it fails, that will impact Title I funds,” Cannaday said. “The House side vote was overwhelming, and it needs to be the same in the Senate.”

Cannaday said it may sound contradictory to be against mandating full-day kindergarten.

“Because you want all-day kindergarten, but the moment you do it, then it becomes a state-funded entity,” he said. “And if we make it mandatory, we lose access to that federal revenue.”

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