OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin announced the signing of two executive orders that could consolidate state public schools and higher education, as a second special session looms in the coming weeks.
“I think we can do better as Oklahomans,” said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, days after she vetoed most of a budget bill sent to her desk Friday evening.
Two orders relate to administrative cost consolidation for higher education and K-12 schools.
On the K-12 administrative cost consolidation executive order, the state board will create a list of school districts that spend less than 60% of their budget on instructional expenditures.
The state board is to also consider and make recommendations for administrative consolidation or annexation of school districts.
“We know that we have well over 500 school districts across the state and so those are two issues, for a long period of time, we’ve discussed a need that we need to address,” Fallin said. “Here are ways we can find more efficiency, get more money to teachers pay, and hopefully be able to lower our college student’s debt, and time they spend going to school.”
For higher education, Fallin’s executive order tasks the state to develop a plan for the administrative consolidation of universities, colleges, education centers and campus branches by December 2018.
A third order related to cutting “swag items,” things such as promotional items like pens, coasters, etc., from state government.
“Whether it’s your coffee cups, your pens, promotional items, that are not necessary to the core mission of an agency.”
As a result of her veto pen, state health and human services agencies are receiving short-term funding to prevent services from being cut. However, the state’s current budget shortfall of $215 million still remains, and another shortfall of more than $600 million is set to greet legislators at the start of the next regular session in February.
For two months of the special session, legislators were unable to pass revenue bills out of the house. Instead, moving forward with using state cash and cuts to state agencies to fix the current budget hole which the governor mostly rejected.
“We’re not going to fix things unless I force them to come back and get the job done,” said Fallin about calling legislators back to the capitol for a second special session.
Fallin said a date for the next special session will be given next week.