OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – State education officials say they are asking Oklahoma lawmakers to allocate over $3 billion for common education for the next fiscal year.
On Thursday, the Oklahoma State Board of Education approved a FY 2021 budget request of $3.29 billion for common education, which is nearly $220 million more than last year.
Officials say the money would restore critical instructional funding, including funds to reduce class sizes and hire additional teachers and school counselors.
“This proposed budget reflects the real needs of Oklahoma students,” said Joy Hofmeister, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “We have made great strides in teacher pay and must now continue our investment in classrooms and student support. This budget request will help us reach the goals outlined in our 8-year strategic plan, Oklahoma Edge.”
State officials say the request includes an increase of almost $118 million to be used to hire additional teachers in order to reduce class sizes. Also, they say they need almost $33 million due to the rising costs of health insurance for teachers and staff members.
Oklahoma has the highest incidence of childhood trauma in the country, which means that school counselors play an important role in children’s lives.
However, the state currently has a 421-1 ratio of students to counselors. That’s why education leaders are asking for $19 million to hire additional counselors.
The FY21 budget request also includes an additional $42.6 million for Support of Students and Teachers, a line item that directly impacts classroom programs and investments. Key areas that would receive additional funding include:
- Alternative education programs to reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates
- School support, to provide resources that facilitate rapid school and academic improvement
- A competitive grant pool that will increase district access to a variety of reading, math, robotics, and other student success programs
- Sooner Start Early Intervention Program for children age birth through 36 months with developmental delays
- Required and enhanced assessments
- Development of a digital transcript
The budget request will ultimately be decided upon by the Oklahoma Legislature next session.