State Superintendent Janet Barresi last week thanked legislative leaders for shepherding approval of additional dollars so that school districts across the state can receive a total of $33 million for instructional and textbook purposes.
“Our first goal should be to get dollars to the classroom, where funds can help students,” said Barresi. “These additional dollars will help to lessen the impact of a tough budget year.”
Senate Bill 1535 passed the House of Representatives last week 88 to 3. The bill appropriates an additional $3 million to Oklahoma’s education budget. The money will help to offset a potential shortfall and will allow $33 million to be disbursed to districts to help them cover costs for a variety of instructional purposes. Traditionally earmarked for textbook expenses, for the past few years local districts have been given flexibility to spend the dollars on other needs.
Barresi said that same flexibility for districts would continue and that the full $33 million would be distributed to districts. Lawmakers earlier passed legislation that diverted a portion of the textbooks fund to the general education budget, something Supt. Barresi had not sought. The additional funds approved today ensures those dollars can be used for their original purpose.
“While the standstill state budget passed for education will create funding challenges, we will continue to work with lawmakers to seek supplemental appropriations in the upcoming legislative session next year,” Barresi said.
State Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee; State Sen. Jim Halligan (R-Stillwater), chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education; State Rep. Earl Sears (R-Bartlesville), chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee; and State Rep. Lee Denney (R-Cushing), chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Education Subcommittee, have pledged to work to restore funding for the state education budget in the next legislative session beginning in February 2013.
“I’m grateful to Senator Jolley, Senator Halligan, Representative Sears and Representative Denney for their work on this issue — as well as to Speaker Steele and Senate President Pro Temp Brian Bingman,” Barresi said.