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State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi's denial of Moore schools' funding request draws sharp criticism

An informal conversation with an official from tornado-ravaged Moore Public Schools is coming back to haunt state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: June 21, 2013 at 9:59 pm •  Published: June 22, 2013

State schools Superintendent Janet Barresi drew sharp criticism this week — on Facebook — when it was revealed that she denied a request that would have helped cash-strapped Moore Public Schools as it continues to recover from the deadly tornadoes and storms that struck in May.

During an informal phone conversation following the storms, Barresi said she was asked by a Moore school official if the district could have its state aid spread out over 12 months instead of the usual 11 months.

The move would have freed up roughly $5 million for the district, which is struggling with cash-flow issues in the wake of May's violent weather.

The state Education Department denied the request, prompting a Moore district high school teacher to post a scathing rant against Barresi on a Facebook page with ties to schoolteachers.

Thousands of people responded to the post, sending it to their friends and posting hundreds of comments of their own.

Barresi said the informal request made by Robert Romines, who will become superintendent of Moore Public Schools on July 1, wasn't granted because Oklahoma law calls for “an 11-month payout schedule” for state aid.

The superintendent also said there was no money available to give Moore Public Schools — or any other district.

“It's not that I didn't want to do it,” Barresi said. “We're prohibited by statute from doing that ... and there were no funds in the coffers to do that.”

Barresi said the Education Department did offer Moore school officials the chance to participate in a program that allows distressed school districts to borrow money at a low interest rate.

Romines said Moore school officials decided not to participate in the so-called “cash management” program.

“There's interest attached to it,” he said. “And I ... don't care how low the interest rate is. This school district is not about borrowing money and going about things that way.

“That did not make sense to us, and we declined the offer.”

Simple proposal

Romines said the proposal he made to Barresi on behalf of Moore Public Schools was simple and wouldn't have placed a burden on any of the parties involved.

“We did not make the request for any additional monies,” he said. “The request that we put out there would not have cost the state department money, it would not have cost the treasury money and it would not have cost the district money.

“It basically would have allowed us to get some of our allocation 30 days earlier.”

Elise Robillard, the French teacher at Westmoore High School who penned the remarks directed at Barresi, said she felt like she “had to” write something when she learned that an informal funding request made by Moore Public Schools had been denied by the state agency.

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by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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It's not that I didn't want to do it. We're prohibited by statute from doing that.”

Janet Barresi,
state school superintendent


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