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Schools uncertain of Education budget

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Thursday is the deadline for districts to renew teacher contracts. Thursday is the deadline for districts to renew teacher contracts.
If emergency funding is approved, the State Department of Education still needs about $13 million for this year. If emergency funding is approved, the State Department of Education still needs about $13 million for this year.

By Amy Lester, NEWS 9

Many schools are cutting jobs since they don't know what the budget looks like for next year. Lawmakers were supposed to have the education budget done April 1.

Its state law, a law passed by legislators five years ago, requiring them to fund education by April 1. They're not following their own law, which frustrates school districts all over the state.

"We're faced with a crisis right now in education," Keith Ballard with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association said.

The crisis is forcing districts to not renew teacher contracts, even though they need them in the classrooms.

"No budget in place for next year makes it a very, very difficult situation for financial management of school districts," Ballard said. "That's why you're seeing layoffs all across the state of teachers."

The executive director of the Oklahoma School Boards Association said there's no excuse for not funding education by the April 1 deadline; the very deadline lawmakers voted to enact, themselves.

"The legislature needs to hold themselves accountable," Ballard said.

There's nothing in the law that forces lawmakers to follow their self imposed deadline. This year, they just didn't finish negotiating the education budget in time.

"If the people think we didn't do our work by not getting the education budget done by April 1, then they'll let us know in the election process," Sen. Mike Morgan (D) President Pro Tempore said.

Those involved in the budget negotiations said it's not as easy as it seems, especially this time around.

"What's complicated things again this year, is that we've got to make sure we have adequate funds to fund the needs of all the agencies before we can agree on the education budget," Sen Mike Johnson (R) District 22 said.

The budget negotiations started on day one of the session. Lawmakers said they should have an education budget soon.

"I do believe that there are lots of legislators that recognize the importance of education," Ballard said. "Right now, the actions would indicate it is not a priority with the legislature."

Lawmakers said education is a priority. The State Senate just passed a bill that includes $19.2 million in emergency supplemental funding for education. That's money schools need to get through this year.

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