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Oklahoma lawmakers file measures to increase education funds without raising taxes

OKLAHOMA CITY - Two republican lawmakers have filed six pieces of legislation they said could increase education funds without raising taxes.

"What I keep saying is we just keep trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again," said Rep. Tess Teague, R-Choctaw. "Massive taxation is not necessarily what the state of Oklahoma wants, so we’re trying to come up with other ways to get revenue flowing back into our classrooms, back to our teachers, back to our funding formula."

Teague and Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy have filed six bills under the 2017 Second Special Session, which remains open concurrently with the 2018 Regular Session.

  • HB1043XX: Enforces performance audit of the State Department of the Education.
  • HB1044XX: Requires Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO) to provide every teacher with a $500 annual stipend for classroom supplies.
  • HB1045XX: Caps superintendent salaries to the that of the governor's
  • HB1046XX: Consolidates superintendents across Oklahoma's more than 500 school districts, affecting counties with populations less than 400,000.
  • HB1047XX: Requires state superintendent to submit to the Legislature and the governor a rolling five-year plan to meet existing and future public education needs for funding and policy reform.
  • HB1048XX: Reallocates $15 million of lottery funding for textbooks and curriculum technology.

Katherine Bishop, vice president of the OEA, said Wednesday they are still seeking $25 million in additional funding. The funding figure changed from their request on Tuesday, when they asked the Legislature to find an additional $50 million.

"We were able to get more secure numbers from the Senate yesterday and their exact appropriations that they’ve done, so we’re 95 percent to our goal," Bishop said. "We feel like, what was appropriated through the funding formula into the the Department of Education’s budget, what happened with Amazon third party tax, we know what will happen with tribal gaming next year but we feel very secure in our numbers."

However, according to Bishop, the six bills will not help with long-term funding.

"They only bring in one-time revenue, so you pay it one year and then you don’t have the revenue this year," she said.

Additionally, some supporters at the walkout told News 4 they did not think consolidation would be a "one size fits all" solution even if it meant saving money.

"I’ve always been at a bigger district, but I’ve talked to some smaller ones and they say the superintendent doesn’t do just superintendent work," Vickie Yarholar told us. "They might be the football coach, they drive the bus. They might be the janitor. They might be the librarian."

Teague told News 4 she has had many conversations with constituents concerned over the possible impact of consolidation.

"Here’s the deal: this is a sausage-making process," she said. "When a bill is filed, it’s usually changed two, three, even four or five times by the time it gets heard on the floor and passes, so this is a starting point."

As for superintendents who work multiple jobs at schools, Teague said the bill specifically said they would only lose their position as superintendents - not other roles.

The bills were filed Tuesday. They have not been heard in committee yet.