OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — State Superintendent Ryan Walters proposed a FY25 budgetary request for legislators to review on Thursday. He is requesting $47M less than what the State Department of Education received this year.
The State Department of Education received $3,970,009,518 for FY24.
That funding came after the Senate and House battled over a total. The decision came down to give the department a historical $500M more than usual.
$160M of that appropriation was the School Security and Reading Initiative pilot programs. That funding is set to be split between FY24, FY25 and FY26.
Supt. Walters claims because that money is to be split up, the education department only spent $3.86B during FY24.
During Thursday morning’s Board of Education meeting, Supt. Walters laid out his proposed budgetary request for lawmakers to review.
He is requesting $3,922,908,833.
The amount Supt. Walters is requesting for FY25 is $47,100,685 less than what the Legislature allocated to the State Department of Education for FY24.
“When we see President Biden pushing this rampant inflation across the country and our state, I don’t believe it would be responsible for us to come in after a record investment from legislature last year and ask for additional money,” stated Supt. Walters.
While the State Superintendent laid out his budget proposal, he did not specify where he would make cuts.
“This is news to me. I would want an explanation of those cuts, how they would affect public schools,” said Oklahoma House Representative Mark McBride (R-Moore).
Supt. Walters is requesting additional funding for maternity leave, infrastructure, a new plan he’s rolling out called ‘Back to the Basics,’ and more.
Supt. Walters explained 76% of Oklahoma fourth graders are below reading levels as well as 79% of eighth graders.
“This is unacceptable. We must get woke indoctrination out of the classroom and get back to focusing on outcomes,” stated Supt. Walters.
He said with an additional $60,550,000 for the ‘Back to the Basics’ program would help fix the low reading levels.
The focus of the program will be reading, math, science and civics.
“We are launching $8 million worth of initiatives improving student outcomes,” Supt. Walters added. “I look forward to expanding these programs into the future.”
Rep. McBride said not enough answers have been given regarding the proposed education budget cuts, so now he wants Supt. Walters to lay everything out before the Education Committee.
“I look forward to him presenting that before my committee here not before long and just hearing his thoughts or his ideas,” he said. “This is my first. I mean, everybody usually wants more money every year. I’m a business person. If you can figure out a way to do it cheaper and still do a good job, I’m game, but I’m not for cutting just to cut.”
Although no specific budget cuts were listed on Thursday during the Board of Education meeting, Supt. Walters’ plan would not provide any additional funding for textbooks.
“I would want an explanation of those cuts, how they would affect public schools. I’d want some input from public school leaders, superintendents, others to see what they thought. Then, I’d want to sit down with Senator Pugh, Representative Baker and whoever else in the Senate and and talk it through with them,” said Rep. McBride. “I’ve been doing it for 12 years. Some of them maybe not as long. But we have a pretty good feel for how this stuff should work.”
Rep. McBride added there are still programs he and other lawmakers will hopefully pass during the 2024 regular legislative session which would increase funding.
“We’re willing to listen to those ideas, you know, but that’ll happen in his presentation to the committee,” said Rep. McBride. “I don’t know where it’s coming from. I know that we did a good job and we have done a good job funding education. So, yes, I guess I would say I am concerned. What do you find that should not be funded? Because we put a lot of time and effort into that.”
Rep. McBride agrees with Supt. Walters that maternity leave funding should increase.
“That’s more funding so I see a little bit more funding than cuts,” he stated.
News 4 reached out to OSDE Director of Communications Dan Isett for more information on the budget proposal. We would have asked Supt. Walters following the Board of Education meeting on Thursday, but News 4 was not invited.
August was the first month OSDE issued RSVP forms to the media.
News 4 has not received a media advisory or press release in over a month.
Isett has been contacted several times regarding the lack of press releases, but he has never responded.
News 4 asked on Friday about an RSVP for Thursday’s meeting. He never responded.
We asked Isett for a statement regarding Supt. Walters’ budget proposal. He said he’d have a statement Thursday afternoon, but News 4 has not directly received one.