Governor approves emergency funds for schools

Friday, April 4th 2008, 8:45 pm
By: News 9

Staff and Wire Reports

Gov. Brad Henry signed an emergency funding bill on Friday to provide $11.5 million to public schools, an amount policy makers concede is not enough to pay bills for the fiscal year ending June 30.

The bill provides $10 million to cover part of a shortfall in a school reform account and $1.5 million to address needs in the Academic Achievement Award Program.

"As I said last week, this is only a first step to addressing the immediate funding needs of our public schools," Henry said. "There is no question that K-12 education needs additional money, and I will be working with legislative leaders to provide that as quickly as possible."

The emergency funding bill is designed to ensure that schools will receive their full funding allocation for the month of April, but additional appropriations will be needed for the remaining two months of the fiscal year.

"We will keep the commitment we made to fill the education shortfall," Henry said. "The schools need this money to end their school year in an orderly manner."

Officials are awaiting final revenue collection numbers to determine how much extra money schools will need. It was originally estimated that the House Bill 1017 Fund, which provides dedicated funding for education, would come up about $37 million short.

Sandy Garrett, superintendent of public instruction, also has asked lawmakers to make up a $4.6 million shortfall in lottery revenue that flows to schools.

Terry Davidson, superintendent of Comanche schools, said districts across the state are struggling to make ends meet.

"There's just not enough money," Davidson said. "We've cut to the bone, now we're cutting into the bone."

The superintendent said he won't replace two teachers resigning this year and he may not bring back two more temporary teachers.

"I'm just very concerned about how we're going to continue to operate and do just the basic things, the frills have been gone a long time," Davidson said.

Julie Willard from the Oklahoma School Boards Association said in a week's time, seven districts have asked for paperwork to start layoffs.

"We have a lot of superintendents who are making a difficult decision this weekend," Willard said.

The districts must renew teacher contracts by next Thursday without knowing what next year's budget looks like.  

As for other districts, Newcastle will not renew three temporary teachers and three support personnel's contracts.  Byng will not renew eight temporary teachers and Bray-Doyle will lay off one teacher.