Oklahoma House Democrats seek more funds for public schools

Oklahoma House Democrats say Republicans should abandon plans to cut the state's personal income tax and instead invest more in public education.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: March 6, 2013 at 2:34 pm •  Published: March 6, 2013

Flanked by public school superintendents, Oklahoma House Democrats called on Republican legislative leaders and the governor Wednesday to increase funding for public schools.

Funding for public schools, which makes up the largest percentage of the legislatively appropriated budget, has been cut nearly 20 percent the past five years, said House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City. Oklahoma's cuts to public schools are the third-highest in the nation, he said.

Yet enrollment in public schools has grown by about 22,000 students in the same time period, Inman said.

“Our children need to be properly funded,” he said.

Public schools received about $2.3 billion of the $6.8 billion legislatively appropriated budget for the 2013 fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has proposed an increase of $13.5 million for the 2014 fiscal year. Inman reminded those at a Capitol news conference that state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi, a Republican, told lawmakers public schools needed a $300 million increase.

Inman urged Republican legislative leaders to pull back plans to cut the state's personal income tax and put the money needed to finance the tax cut into public schools.