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Obeying the law is no crime

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: June 26, 2013

Mark Twain once noted, “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” That's especially true in the age of social media. A rant can be fact-free and still spread like wildfire. Consider a recent Facebook post by a Moore teacher.

In her post, the teacher erroneously claimed state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi was callously preventing Moore schools from getting early allocation of the coming fiscal year's funds for rebuilding. Not true. Allocation of schools' fiscal year funding is illegal before Aug. 1, under state law. Barresi doesn't have the power to approve the school's informal request.

In fact, the Oklahoma Department of Education hasn't yet received school districts' funds for the coming fiscal year, which starts in July, so there's no money for the agency to provide early, even if it were legal. Oklahoma law also requires that state funds be used for classroom expenses. Building construction and maintenance are funded through local property taxes. Diversion of state funds for reconstruction of buildings could therefore violate state law and border on embezzlement.

Perhaps greater flexibility should be allowed in disaster situations like the Moore tornado, but the Legislature has to make that change; the state Department of Education can't. Meanwhile, Barresi and agency officials have sought to aid Moore by identifying nontraditional emergency funding sources, waiving regulations when possible, and working to protect classroom dollars.

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by The Oklahoman Editorial Board
The Oklahoman Editorial Board consists of Gary Pierson, President and CEO of The Oklahoma Publishing Company; Christopher P. Reen, president and publisher of The Oklahoman; Kelly Dyer Fry, editor and vice president of news; Christy Gaylord...
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