The state legislature is close to passing a spending plan weeks before the deadline and without any cuts to state agencies.
The $7.5 billion budget includes a nearly 15 percent increase in spending for education.
“There’s no cuts in this budget nowhere. Most everybody is seeing increases especially with the state employee pay raises,” said Representative Kevin Wallace (R) Appropriations and Budget Chair. “And of course, education is the big one.”
Very big. It’s an increase of about half billion dollars. That’s to pay for an average $6,100 annual raises for teachers and more classroom spending. It also includes increases for mental health, substance abuse treatment, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Health.
That’s good news for Sherry Fair who runs the child abuse interdiction program “Parent Promise”. The agency lost its state aid last year because of budget cuts, even though Fair says a small investment in preventing child abuse pays off in the long run.
“As these children grow up they go to school ready to learn which takes a huge burden off education, and we divert them most importantly from going to foster care and then in later years going into juvenile detention and in adult years becoming incarcerated,” said Fair.
Representative John Pfeiffer (R) Enid said, “An increase in teacher pay, increase in classroom funding, that’s definitely something that we’re really proud of. We’re also going to see some increased money in mental health, health care authority and corrections.”
But Democrats say the increases don’t make up for the cuts we’ve seen over the years.
“We have cut education more than any other state in the country. We have our teachers funded at 49th in the country. We’ve got roads and bridges that are in need of repair. We’ve got rural hospitals closing,” said Representative Eric Proctor (D) Tulsa, “This isn’t a victory by any stretch of the imagination for anybody in the state of Oklahoma. It’s a band aid on a hemorrhaging wound.”