MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Oklahoma News

April 1, 2013

Education leaders wait for word on funding

(Continued)

The governor and Republican leaders in both the House and Senate have said increasing funding for common education will be a priority in next year's budget.

"We are extremely dedicated to making sure common education receives a significant increase in the upcoming year," Martin said. "The exact amount is what we're discussing right now."

A trio of Republican senators earlier this year, including the chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. John Ford, asked to increase common education funding by at least $75 million for the next fiscal year.

Democrats, meanwhile, have consistently hammered Republicans for talking about increased funding for education while contemplating a one-quarter of 1 percent cut to the state's personal income tax that is expected to cost about $120 million annually.

Besides funding, school safety has been a top priority for legislators in the wake of the December shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six adults dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Recommendations that emerged from a special task force created after the shooting have been drafted into bills that are working through the legislative process, including a measure requiring public schools to conduct drills to prepare students and teachers for possible intruders. Other recommendations by the task force include mental health training for school staffs and requiring that unauthorized firearms discovered on a school's grounds be reported to law enforcement authorities.

Public school districts also could decide whether to allow armed teachers in classrooms under a bill that has been approved by the House and is pending in the Senate. The bill, which would give districts the option of paying for teachers to receive a minimum of 120 hours of specialized training in order to carry a firearm into a school, has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee, but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

That bill has been opposed by many school officials who have raised concerns over the safety and liability of allowing armed teachers.

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