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Oklahoma City school board members to discuss possible funding lawsuit

OKLAHOMA CITY - Members of the Oklahoma City Board of Education are scheduled to meet Monday night to discuss a potential lawsuit against the Oklahoma Legislature over education funding.

The board, comprised of eight members, must agree on a majority vote basis in order to move ahead with the process. The lawsuit was announced last week by the Oklahoma City Public School District.

According to Superintendent Aurora Lora, the school district has had to cut between $35 million and $45 million out of their budget in the past two years. District 4 school board member Mark Mann said they are not seeking a set dollar amount from the Oklahoma Legislature, citing only enough to help pay for resources the district is required to provide.

"Every district across the state has suffered the exact same thing we’re going through," Mann said. "We have to stand up at some point and say this is not sustainable. We cannot meet the mandates that are required of us by the legislature leadership and the legislature without the funding to go along with those."

The issue of school funding is one District 93 Representative Mickey Dollens said he's all too familiar with having spent two years teaching at U.S. Grant High School.

"I know firsthand what’s like to have to duct tape your textbooks together, to have to have to teach a classroom with more than 30 students… to see many of your colleagues go to different states, because the pay here is just not adequate," Dollens said. "If you look back at the state constitution, Article 16 Section 1… it clearly says the state legislature has an obligation to maintain education and so far, the state leadership has come up short."

News 4 reached out to the office of House Speaker Charles McCall, who declined to comment further ahead of Monday night’s meeting. In a past statement released to news outlets, McCall has called the lawsuit "frivolous" and a waste of taxpayer money.

In a full statement, McCall said:

“Every state agency has been asked to operate on less because our revenues are down, yet the Department of Education has received a flat budget while others have taken cuts. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has already adjudicated the issue of ‘adequate school funding’ and dismissed a similar challenge in 2007. Not only that, but according to Department of Education funding data, the Oklahoma City Public School District’s per pupil funding average is more than $1,000 per student higher than the state average. However, if Oklahoma City Public Schools is concerned about a lack of funding, then I’m certainly curious to know how they found the money for millions of dollars in pay increases for their staff. I would encourage them to spend their time and money on being better stewards of the dollars they receive instead of filing frivolous lawsuits that blame others for their own poor leadership. Not only would a lawsuit waste the school district’s money, it would waste additional taxpayer dollars to defend it. The Oklahoma City Public School District needs to stop playing political games and get back to educating students.”

Mann adds he's received positive feedback from other school districts in the state indicating their possible intent to join the legal action since last week's announcement.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Monday at Northeast Academy on Kelley Avenue.