OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Oklahoma’s Secretary of Education, Ryan Walters, has received push back from a suggestion he made on the campaign trail. He said if elected, he will stop taking federal education dollars to limit federal oversight in public schools.
Representative Logan Phillips has been a strong supporter of funding in schools and said if Oklahoma schools were to lose funding it would be financially devastating for several programs, especially free and reduced lunch programs.
“I grew up in poverty,” said Phillips, who said he knew the value of school lunches and after school programs firsthand. “These programs allowed me to exist.”
Phillips said if Walters eliminated federal dollars in Oklahoma schools the impact would be immediate.
“Oklahoma is a high needs state,” said Phillips. “We’re not talking about one or two kids here. If we don’t feed them in schools, they simply don’t get fed.”
According to Phillips recent Twitter post, 62.2 percent of students in Oklahoma schools used some form of free or reduced meal programs. That accounted for more than 430,000 children. It’s just one of dozens of programs receiving federal dollars.
Walters said by trimming excess spending, the state could find a way to be fully funded without federal funds.
“The biggest concern, is to ensure that money is actually being spent appropriately and getting to our great teachers, to our classrooms,” said Walters. “I’m going to audit every dollar, I’m going to look at every program. I’m going to ensure that administrators, teachers, parents have open transparency in how these dollars are used.”
According to Phillips, the state already audits every dollar spent in education.
“If we remove the federal funding coming into Oklahoma, which we are already a donor state, meaning we receive more federal funding than we send out, the Oklahoma taxpayer will still be required to send the feds the money,” said Phillips. “We are going to pay twice to get a lesser service for our students if we get rid of this funding.”
“The government does not have money,” said Phillips. “The government has your money. What we’re doing here is using our money in Oklahoma for our kids.”
Walters said there were three things he wanted to clear up about the federal funding concerns. One was to make sure that any money coming into the feds does not have mandates or strings attached. Second, to make sure that the Biden administration did not push an agenda on Oklahoma children. Third, ensuring that federal dollars are not putting mandates on the state that require Oklahomans to use the money in a way that was not beneficial to kids.
Phillips said the idea that Oklahoma students were better off not having funding was “absurd” since schools were terribly underfunded already.
“Anyone that thinks getting rid of the federal program is a good idea either is just completely ignorant on how school and education funding works for our students and how big of an impact it is, or is just vindictive and actively wanting to hurt children,” said Phillips. “The majority of our students would be negatively impacted if this program goes away.”
If Oklahoma eliminated federal funding in schools, Phillips said the first thing to collapse would be rural schools because they rely so heavily on funds. He said schools would shut down and shutter almost immediately.