Oklahoma lawmakers miss deadline for education budget

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma legislators have missed their April 1 deadline to pass a common education budget.

A statue, passed in 2003, said the legislature needs to have a detail education budget passed by April 1 so superintendents can plan their budgets and staffing accordingly.

But, only twice in 16 years has the April 1 deadline been met. And, both times, the budgets were ultimately scrapped.

But, this year, given what happened at the capitol last year at this time with the teacher walkout, some politicians said things should have been done differently.

“We should have done it; we should have taken the base budget. And, basically, said, by April 1, this is our base budget. If we are going to add more money to it, we will do it later; it would have been cosmetically a very good idea after last year,” said Senator Ron Sharp.

The former teacher from Shawnee is on the education sub-committee. He said, since 2003, the governor has been involved with the House and Senate in coming up with a budget

“When you have these three prongs in here, it just creates a problem in trying to get everyone to the table, trying to agree to this,” he said.

Sharp said, through different bills, the House and governor favor a $1,200 teacher pay raise. The Senate wants the money to go to classroom supplies.

“I think there has been some back and forth on it, if you had to chose if there would be a salary increase or additional classroom funding, which to me is concerning in that both areas have been cut equally,” said Senator Carrie Hicks.

Hicks is a newly-elected former teacher from Deer Creek. She along with other educators said not having a budget passed on time is sending the wrong message.

“Last year, education continued to be a top campaign promise for candidates across the state; I’m just really concerned that we have lost some of that direction,” she said.

“Everyone campaigned on a pro public education platform, and so we are really holding our legislators’ feet to the fire on funding,” said Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association.

Priest said it’s more important for legislators to get the budget right than on time.

Sharp told News 4 that legislators are still waiting to see how much money will be gathered with the new energy and marijuana taxes. He expects a budget by the end of April.

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