The Oklahoma State Board of Education is approving a more than $3 billion budget for next school year.
The board says the money will be used to hire additional teachers to reduce class sizes. The funding also includes money for a school counselor corps.
The hope is to improve Oklahoma's high student-to-counselor ratio, which is currently 421-1.
The State Department of Education released the following in a press release:
The Oklahoma State Board of Education today approved a Fiscal Year 2021 budget request of $3.29 billion for common education, which includes an increase of nearly $220 million over last year. The request seeks to restore critical instructional funding, including funds to reduce class sizes and hire additional teachers and school counselors.
“This proposed budget reflects the real needs of Oklahoma students,” said Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “We have made great strides in teacher pay and must now continue our investment in classrooms and student support. This budget request will help us reach the goals outlined in our 8-year strategic plan, Oklahoma Edge.”
This year’s request includes an increase of $117.9 million to the state funding formula, to be used to hire additional teachers to reduce class sizes. Rising health insurance benefit costs for school teachers and staff account for an additional $32.8 million.
The budget request also includes $19 million for a School Counselor Corps, a critical investment due to the state’s high student-to-counselor ratio, which, at 421-to-1, far exceeds the 250-to-1 recommendation by the American School Counseling Association. The corps will assist in providing the supports students need in elementary, middle and high school and will help meet the requirements for successful implementation of Individual Career Academic Planning, or ICAP. Beginning this school year, ICAP is a graduation requirement for all ninth-grade students.
Oklahoma has the highest incidence of childhood trauma in the country, including family violence, substance abuse and other challenges that adversely impact learning. The School Counselor Corps will be instrumental in supporting students who have experienced similar hardships.
The FY21 budget request also includes an additional $42.6 million for Support of Students and Teachers, a line item that directly impacts classroom programs and investments. Key areas that would receive additional funding include:
Alternative education programs to reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates
School support, to provide resources that facilitate rapid school and academic improvement
A competitive grant pool that will increase district access to a variety of reading, math, robotics and other student success programs
Sooner Start Early Intervention program for children age birth through 36 months with developmental delays
Required and enhanced assessments
Development of a digital transcript