House Republicans want more Education Money in Budget

Mike Seals - May 5, 2021 11:52 pm

School Funding

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House Republicans are pushing a significant education funding increase as a “must-have” in current state budget negotiations. The House this year prioritized common education funding reform with measures that increase per-student funding and equalize appropriations for all districts.

House Republicans support at least $135 million in additional state common education funding so public schools can enact classroom size limits for kindergarten and first grade as specified in state law through House Bill 1017, enacted in 1990, and Senate Bill 193, enacted in 2019.

“If we want to make Oklahoma a Top Ten state in education outcomes, we have to do things differently,” said Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow. “The funding reforms we enacted this year create greater equity for all of our public schools and provides more funding per student in state aid. Education funding has been a priority for House Republicans all session, and even more so as budget negotiations intensify at the end of session.”

The House Republican education funding increase would restore one-time pandemic-related reductions from last session and add additional funds into the funding formula to trigger the class size reductions.

Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon, is chair of the House Common Education Committee. She was a teacher before running for public office and has seen the needs of school districts firsthand.

“Numerous education studies show us that smaller classroom sizes in the formative years of a student’s early learning will pay big dividends in a student’s academic success during the rest of their education,” Baker said. “House Republicans have worked steadily to increase education funding to ensure our students get the education they deserve.”

Mark McBride, R-Moore, is chair of the House Appropriations and Budge Subcommittee for Education.

“Teachers and administrators want to do what’s best for students,” McBride said. “These reforms will help our public school educators in their mission of graduating students that are fully prepared for higher learning or the workforce. This will result in more jobs, a stronger economy and a better state for all of us.”

Senate Bill 229, which is still making its way through the legislative process, seeks to correct funding disparities for public schools in low property value areas while addressing the building needs of public brick-and-mortar charter schools.

The House amended SB 229 to create the Redbud School Funding Act, which proposes using medical marijuana taxes and the Common School Building Equalization Fund to provide annual per-student funding grants to up to 334 traditional Oklahoma school districts that currently receive below average funding for their education from annual local tax revenue. This money also would be used to meet the building needs of public brick-and-mortar charter schools that receive less per-student funding and that cannot pass building bonds. The measure would reverse the State Board of Education’s decision on diverting funds from traditional public schools and keeps their local ad valorem dollars in place.

Hilbert is the principal author of House Bill 2078, which was signed into law by the governor earlier this year. The measure ensures education funds more closely follow the student by getting rid of the three-year high average daily membership counts schools currently use. That formula resulted in students being double or triple counted as they moved between districts. In the current academic year $200 million is being spent on 55,000 that do not actually exist. Cleaning the rolls will result in higher per-student funding for each actual student.


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