Senate Approves Gradual Oklahoma Public School Funding Proposal
Updated at 11:57 a.m. following the Senate vote.
The Senate unanimously approved a plan Wednesday morning designed to increase public school funding by $600 million annually.
The measure that passed Wednesday on a 43-0 vote initially diverted revenue used to repair state roads and bridges.
During floor debate Wednesday morning the bill's author, state Sen. James Halligan (R-Stillwater), said the new plan calls for $30 million to be spent next year, an amount that will increase by $30 million each year until the $600 million figure is reached.
"I think the important thing is the triggers," Halligan said. "We tried to make certain that you had to have growth before you put additional funds here. And if you have a decline in revenue, you have to come back to the previous peak before you can put additional funds in."
Funds would only be added in years where there is growth of at least one percent in the state's General Revenue Fund.
“The goal remains unchanged, which is to dedicate an additional $600 million for our schools that will produce tangible results in the classroom,” Halligan said in a press release Tuesday. “We’ve spent much of this past month in talks with all the stakeholders to find a way to achieve our goal for education while ensuring our transportation infrastructure investments and timelines are still met.”
The current version of House Bill 2642 was criticized because it diverted money from the Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding Oklahoma Access and Driver (ROAD) Safety Fund and allocated it to the State Department of Education.
The new plan, which will be presented Wednesday, calls for a dedicated appropriation of $30 million in FY2015, which begins on July 1, 2014.
That amount would then increase by $30 million each year through FY2018. In FY2019, the ROAD Fund will reach its statutory maximum of $575 million, freeing an additional $60 million which can then be dedicated to Securing Educational Excellence Fund.
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