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Added $74M To Oklahoma Education Budget Still Not Enough, Advocates Say

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State lawmakers reached a deal on the budget Thursday, and it includes new money for education, but not enough to offset cuts from the last several years. State lawmakers reached a deal on the budget Thursday, and it includes new money for education, but not enough to offset cuts from the last several years.
Governor Mary Fallin and key leaders of the legislature said their new deal shows a commitment to education, with $74 million more next year. Governor Mary Fallin and key leaders of the legislature said their new deal shows a commitment to education, with $74 million more next year.
In Tulsa, at a meeting on school funding, education advocacy group In Tulsa, at a meeting on school funding, education advocacy group
TULSA, Oklahoma -

State lawmakers reached a deal on the budget Thursday, and it includes new money for education, but not enough to offset cuts from the last several years.

The deal adds money to education overall, but not enough to keep pace with growth in enrollment and not enough to offset the still uncertain impact of a business tax cut--the one voters approved last year in a state question.

Governor Mary Fallin and key leaders of the legislature said their new deal shows a commitment to education, with $74 million more next year.

"In the end, I think the people of Oklahoma have been well served by what's been put together in this budget," Fallin said.

In Tulsa, at a meeting on school funding, education advocacy group "Stand for Children" had limited praise for a small increase after years of big cuts.

5/2/2013 Related Story: Oklahoma Legislators, Governor Reach Deal On Budget

"We were hoping for more, but we believe it's a step in the right direction," said Brian Hunt, from Stand for Children Oklahoma.

The new budget deal adds $74 million for common education statewide. It would take $118 million more just to keep up with rising costs and increasing numbers of students. That's a gap of $44 million.

Graph From OKPolicy.org Showing Cuts To Education Funding Since 2008

Schools are also losing money from federal cutbacks, from a state business tax cut and an individual tax cut next year.

State representative Fred Jordan, of Jenks, said he believes a tax cut won't hurt education funding, but admits it will take several years to know for sure.

"I think it's coming from the citizens and there's a goal of everybody to keep as many of their own dollars in their pocket as they can," Jordan said.

Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said he's disappointed, in a time of record tax revenue, the state lawmakers didn't restore some of the hundreds of millions of dollars cut from education since 2009.

"We are appreciative of the $74 million and we'll put it to good use, but it is a disappointing number, because it does fall short of what we need," Ballard said.

While school enrollment has increased, education funding has decreased every year since 2008, so the new money is a turnaround in that sense.

Those two new tax cuts could have a huge impact, but the amount of dollars lost for schools is still unknown.

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