Bill Would Force Oklahoma Legislature To Fund School Mandates
MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma - A state lawmaker wants to make sure schools in Oklahoma don't carry the costs for programs the legislature requires them to put into place.
State representative Avery Frix said the new bill would force the state legislature to fund programs if they choose to mandate them on public schools.
Muskogee Schools Superintendent Mike Garde said reading tests and some professional development programs are some of the mandates the state requires school districts to implement, but not all of them are funded properly by the legislature.
"Our legislature does things with great intent - like the reading sufficiency act or the age remediation program,” he said. “If they don't have the proper funding, we're in the position where we're not doing it as well as it should be done for our kids, or where the local district has to kick in some money so that it is done properly."
With no state funding and already tight budgets, school districts are being forced to carry out the programs.
"We ask our teachers and we ask our school districts to do more but we aren't providing them the funding to do that," Frix said.
The state representative filed House Bill 1115, which would prevent the legislature from creating new mandates unless they're funded.
"What I think that this bill does is that it makes the legislature think before they pass legislation as to what the financial and fiscal effect will be on our school districts and on our teachers, and I think that's my goal of passing this legislation," Frix said.
Garde said he agrees with the proposed legislation.
"Given the tight budgets that everyone's on, I think we're doing the best we can in our local districts. Our board would like to see, and our community would like to see, even though the legislature may have great intent, it still puts a hardship on the local districts to create more funds to do unfunded mandates," the superintendent said.
The bill still has a long way to go through the process. If it becomes law, it will go into effect until November.