State board of education to ask for more money

Saturday, October 1st 2005, 1:12 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The state board of education voted to ask the Legislature for $351 million more for the common education fund.

If approved, public school appropriations would be nearly $2.5 billion_ a record high_ for fiscal year 2007, state officials said.

State Schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett said the largest funding requests would cover teacher raises, increased transportation costs and restoring some statewide budget cuts from two previous school years.

``I think that many people in the Legislature support education and realize we must be competitive in order to keep our teachers in Oklahoma,'' Garrett said on Friday. ``They also realize that an additional impact has been made on the current budgets because of increasing fuel (costs). ... We've got to start building that into the budget.''

The Legislature appropriated nearly $2.15 billion for public schools this year, which was distributed to 540 districts with more than 600,000 students.

Of the $351 million request for next year, the board will seek $305 million for the state aid funding formula, which is money given to schools for most daily operations.

About one-third of the funding formula request, or $96.6 million, would cover student transportation. Garrett said buses in 539 of the state's 540 school districts cover 80 million miles a year.

The Bethany School District doesn't have busing because its boundaries encompass less than one square mile. State regulations don't allow for state-funded busing of students who live within 1 1/2 miles of their school.

About $54.6 million has been asked to cover a share of teacher salaries for the second year of a four-year plan to raise teacher pay.

The board also will seek more than $85 million that districts didn't receive in the 2001-02 and 2002-03 school years because of statewide budget cuts.

Garrett said that during the shortfalls, districts laid off employees and put off some purchases. Returning that money can help fully staff most schools, she said.

Instructional television programs and the Omniplex are two areas where new funding is being sought, said Kent Tippin, executive director of the state Education Department's fiscal services division.

A $100,000 request would provide educational programming during the school year on Oklahoma Educational Television Authority channels.

Garrett said if the Education Department secures the funding, the department can select the programming and ensure it meets education standards.

The board also altered one budget request that would provide funding to the Omniplex. The board will seek $987,000 for the Omniplex if students can receive free admission and classroom services on field trips.

The board is expected to prioritize all of its requests during the next regular monthly board meeting, scheduled for Oct. 20.