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Fallin's Plan To Use Surplus Money For Teacher Raises Could Be Unconstitutional

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The Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administration. The Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administration.

Gov. Mary Fallin’s suggestion to hold a special legislative session to allocate a $141-million surplus for teacher raises is facing a lot of criticism. The money was left over after mid-year cuts to state agencies; cuts that were deeper than necessary. 

The governor wants the legislature to use that one-time surplus for teacher pay raises. But the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration (CCOSA) says that would be unconstitutional because the cuts were made based on projections, not on actual revenue numbers. So the money would have to go back to the agency's that were cut.

"The Office of Management Enterprise Services (OMES) made cuts to a state appropriated fund based on their projections of a failure,” said Ryan Owens, CCOSA Executive Director. “And they didn't have the legal authority to do that."

Lawmakers and education experts News 9 spoke with are leery of the governor's idea.

"It’s one-time funding. It can't last.” said Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-District 92). “She's playing games with people's lives and people's futures."

State Education Superintendent Joy Hofmeister says one-time money isn’t the answer.

"If we have one-time money certainly that is not going to solve our teacher shortage. We have been calling for a long term solution," Hofmeister said.

As for the special session, lawmakers we've spoken with say the governor has the right to call it, but that doesn't mean anything will be accomplished.  

"I would hope that since they're running the show that it would be a one-day session, that they would have their act together. That's a big if,” Morrissette said.  “And that they would roll out whatever plan it is they have, get it done and get out of there. But I suspect if the past is prologue to the future, it is going to be a circus."

A spokesman for the governor says she is in discussions with legislative leaders about a special session, and no timetable has been set up.  

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