The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Thursday approved a fiscal year 2013 budget request for public schools — providing details on funds for statewide implementation of reforms, dollars to assist teachers and school personnel with health insurance costs, and a restoration of funding for some programs that were cut as a result of a state budget shortfall last year.
“This represents a responsible budget request that ensures we can implement crucial reforms across the state, while also meeting requirements for teachers’ retirement and flexible benefit allowances that help with health insurance expenses,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi said. “We're also asking that some additional funds be restored so the state can meet its commitment to pay for items such as bonuses for National Board Certified teachers. Oklahoma continues to face fiscal challenges, and we're mindful that any budget request must carefully prioritize and use taxpayer dollars in an efficient and effective manner."
Oklahoma's common education budget was cut by nearly $100 million in fiscal year 2012. The FY 2012 Public School Activities budget was cut by 4.42 percent, while state aid for schools was cut by 4.13 percent.
The $2.4 billion budget request for fiscal year 2013 asks for $157.9 million more than in FY 2012. A large portion of the requested increase — more than $45.5 million — would fund the Flexible Benefit Allowance for each certified school district employee, other than superintendents, and for support personnel.
State law requires the State Department of Education to fully fund Teachers Retirement and matching requirements for federal grants. Among items in the budget request, the Department of Education asked for a $78.2 million increase for the Financial Support of Schools. The almost $1.9 billion fund distributes aid to all state school districts through the state aid formula.
Barresi said the budget request also asks the Legislature to restore funding to some items that were zeroed out during last year's budget crunch, such as funding for National Board Certified Teacher Bonuses amounting to nearly $12 million. The request also asks for restored funding for matching federal funds for adult education, funds for Advanced Placement incentives, dollars for alternative and high challenge education, and charter school incentives.
A $1.6 million increase also was requested for Achieving Classroom Excellence (ACE) remediation. The ACE Act of 2005 requires remediation opportunities be provided to all seventh- and eighth-grade and high school students (beginning with students who entered the ninth-grade in the 2008-09 school year) who do not score at or above the satisfactory/proficient performance level on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Tests in reading and mathematics or on End-of-Instruction (EOI) exams. The ACE budget for 2013 is $9.2 million.