State school superintendent asks for $2.6 billion for Oklahoma education

State schools superintendent Janet Barresi asked the joint Budget and Appropriations Committee on Tuesday morning to increase the state education budget by nearly $300 million compared to last year.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL ccoppernoll@opubco.com Published: January 30, 2013

Barresi said no.

“It was appropriated under the activity budget,” she said. “The state Board of Education does the budgeting around that. Long story short, we were not able to meet that $6.5 million requirement.”

This year, the Board of Education had $462 million available in the activities fund. Barresi said programs governed by federal and state law get funded first.

If the Education Department does receive the extra funding, money would be parceled out to school districts, which would have to use at least part of it on summer reading programs, a spokeswoman for the state Education Department said.

Leaders eye 2010 levels

If the overall proposed Education Department budget of $2.6 billion is fully funded, it would raise per-pupil funding to the same level as 2010, Barresi said.

Oklahoma schools reported nearly 10,000 more students this fall than at the end of the last school year, a state Education Department spokeswoman said.

Barresi said the bulk of growth has been seen in the western part of Oklahoma, because of the energy industry.

Barresi said the “heart of the budget” would fund reform measures, such as state-mandated end-of-instruction exams for high school students.

Rep. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, asked Barresi what her top priorities were if her budget couldn't be fully funded.

First is money for school districts, Barresi said.

After that: implementing the newly enacted reforms.

The following funding requests are the largest in Barresi's proposal:

Cash for local schools: $2 billion, which is up $235 million from last year.

School activities, such as reading and robotics: $508 million, up $46 million.

Health insurance for school workers: $368 million, up $24 million.

Instructional materials: $35 million, up $2 million.

Teacher retirement: $35 million, the same as last year.

Contributing:

Michael McNutt, Capitol Bureau