OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Funding for public schools topped $2 billion for the first time in state history Tuesday when Gov. Frank Keating signed an education appropriations bill.
The measure increases spending on public education for the fiscal year beginning July 1 by $65 million over the previous year's budget, Keating said.
``Along with adequate funding, it is also important to continue our aggressive school reform efforts,'' Keating said. ``Dollars without accompanying reform don't buy better schools.''
Keating also signed other education bills, including a measure that requires students in grades 1-3 to be tested at the beginning of each school year for basic reading and language skills.
The measure, by Sen. Kathleen Wilcoxson, R-Oklahoma City, also requires schools to provide phonics instruction to assure that elementary students acquire phonics-based reading skills.
The legislation also sets a statewide goal of having 90 percent of all third graders reading at or above grade level by the spring of 2007.
``This important provision will help prevent the promotion of young children from grade to grade without the fundamental reading and writing skills they need for advanced learning,'' Keating said.
Keating also signed a measure to allow the Office of Accountability to conduct performance reviews of school districts whose administrative costs are higher than the legal limit for school districts.
``It is important that districts continue to try and get a handle on and reduce how much money is going into district administration instead of the classroom,'' the governor said.
Keating also vetoed six measures, bringing his veto record after more than six years in office to 259 bills. None of Keating's vetoes has ever been overridden.