Two state lawmakers today called for reforms that could potentially redirect millions from administrative costs to actual classroom needs.
“We spend over half the state budget on education, yet much of that money never goes to our teachers or students,” said state Rep. David Brumbaugh, R-Tulsa. “We cannot continue to allow money to be needlessly wasted on administrative bloat.”
House Bill 1746, by Nelson and Brumbaugh, would require schools to eventually spend at least 65 percent of funds on direct instructional activities.
Under the bill, direct instructional activities would include things such as teacher salaries, textbooks, tutors, classroom computers, teacher’s aids, and similar expenses.
The legislation would also require school districts to receive prior approval before they could eliminate teaching positions.
Currently, records show that many school districts in Oklahoma spend less than 65 percent of their budgets on direct instructional activities.
In fact, more than 100 school districts spend less than 50 percent of their budgets on the classroom.
“The questions I never hear asked about education spending is, ‘How much money is enough and how much money should go to the classroom where it benefits students and teachers?’” Nelson said. “House Bill 1746 attempts to answer the second question.
“Every year we hear that we need more money for schools or teachers or most often for the children,” Nelson continued. “That’s why I’m running this bill this year. This bill directs more of the existing money to the classroom and also provides additional protections for teachers in the event school budgets are cut. With the possibility of more budget cuts to education this year I think it is extremely important to protect classroom teacher from RIFs.”
|Rep. David Brumbaugh|
“Currently, 28 percent – almost three out of every 10 Oklahoma students – do not graduate from high school,” Brumbaugh said. “That failure rate ultimately costs Oklahoma $3.8 billion in lost wages along with billions of dollars in state aid and benefits paid to support under-educated.”
He said even students who do attend college are often set up to fail under the current system, with 18 percent of college freshmen having to go through remedial education that covers material students were supposed to learn in high school.
“These numbers should concern every Oklahoman because for almost a quarter of a century the taxpayer has been sold a bill of goods about our education spending while the actual use of their hard-earned tax dollars was disguised with a ‘shell game,’” Brumbaugh said. “Our test scores have not gone up, but down. It’s time to change the system.”
Brumbaugh noted that Oklahoma ranks 45th out of 50 states in “Chance for Success” from Education Week Magazine, and said House Bill 1746 would begin to improve those statistics while giving parents better information on how school funds are being expended.
“Transparency is not a privilege – it is a right,” Brumbaugh said. “We need to start getting dollars to the classroom where the money belongs. The funds should follow the kids. When the state spends so much on education we have a fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer to be good stewards of their money and get the resources where they belong.”
House Bill 1746 failed to receive the necessary majority vote in the House of Representatives on March 9. Nelson and Brumbaugh plan to bring the bill up for reconsideration next Monday and have begun to visit with members who voted against it to answer their questions.
“I would encourage everyone to call their state representatives and encourage them to vote to reconsider and in favor of HB 1746,” Nelson said.