Oklahoma legislator, state education board discuss schools' reserve funds

Rep. Jason Nelson addressed the state Board of Education at its meeting Thursday. He said school districts have millions of dollars carried over from previous years.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL ccoppernoll@opubco.com Modified: August 23, 2012 at 10:25 pm •  Published: August 24, 2012

An Oklahoma City legislator told the state Board of Education that districts complaining about flat or shrinking state funding should look to their hefty reserve accounts.

Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, said state school districts have about $670 million in carry-over funding as of last year.

“How much money is enough?” Nelson said. “And how much ought to go to the classroom? I've never gotten an answer.”

Oklahoma has 521 school districts, according to the state Education Department.

Carry-over funds aren't restricted, Nelson said, and come from leftover funds, unanticipated income, and over-collection of taxes. Nelson said the $670 million carry-over of last year was the highest total since the recession began in 2008.

“This is certainly fungible money,” Nelson said. “I would assume they're keeping it in there for a rainy day — what we'd all like to keep in our bank accounts.”

Nelson told the Board of Education that districts have done a good job managing their money but that no one should “cry about a few million” when districts have large amounts in reserve.

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