The State Board of Education urged the Legislature on Thursday to approve the governor’s proposal to bolster state revenue and shield education from "devastating cuts.”
Six school superintendents from across the state presented to the board Thursday their "worst case” budget scenarios under the proposed 10 percent cut being considered by the Legislature. "The sad thing is that many of them have already cut the areas outside the classrooms, but now they are cutting into bone,” state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett said. "We have more mandates on the table — many of them reforms that we have worked hard to see — that are being weakened, if not moved off the table completely.” Garrett said finding a new source of revenue — such as Gov. Brad Henry’s recommended suspension of tax credits or exemptions and increased taxation of Internet sales — could be the missing pieces that prevent education advancements from being set back decades. Henry’s plans to raise revenue include tactics such as ending selected tax credits and refinancing bonds at a more favorable rate. The plan could raise an additional $725 million and reduce the 10 percent cuts across the board to 3 percent, and 0.5 percent for public schools. That proposal still is being discussed in the 2011 budget negotiations with the Legislature. "The reality is, unless we are willing to address revenue enhancement in the state of Oklahoma — eliminating some of the opportunities for tax aversion — we are going to undo years of advancement in education,” said Superintendent Jerry Needham of Oktaha Public Schools.