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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105

For Immediate Release: April 2, 2014

Sen. Jim Halligan
Sen. Jim Halligan

Senate Appropriations Committee approves ‘Securing Educational Excellence Fund’

A bill aimed at providing more resources for Oklahoma schools has been approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. In its current form, House Bill 2642, also known as the “Securing Educational Excellence Fund,” by Sen. Jim Halligan in the Senate and Rep. Lee Denney in the House, would divide current “off the top” funding that now goes to transportation and give half of that amount to public schools.

Halligan, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, said the national recession resulted in decreased funding for schools in recent years, while student enrollment has increased. Lawmakers are also dealing with a shortfall of $188 million for the coming fiscal year.

“We’ve got to get more funding for education, but we are in a very challenging budget year. That means we’re going to have to look at some of the funds we’re spending now and try to find a way to address this need,” said Halligan, R-Stillwater. “I recognize we have critical needs in transportation with our roads and bridges, but the children of this state are just as important. If we want more students to graduate high school with the skills they need for college, CareerTech or the workforce then we’re going to have to invest more in education.”

Currently, $357 million comes off the top of the state budget annually and is earmarked for a fund to repair or replace aging bridges and roads. That fund automatically increases by approximately $60 million a year until it reaches a cap of $575 million, and the state is currently projected to meet that cap by fiscal year 2018. Under HB 2642, education would receive half of the $60 million annual increase, but Halligan says that would only result in a three and a half year delay before the roads fund hit its maximum cap.

Halligan said in the bill’s current form, for every $60 million provided to education, one additional instructional day would be added, up to a total of 10 days.

The measure, which was approved Wednesday on a vote of 20-3, will next be considered by the full Senate.

“It’s certainly possible we’ll see more changes in this bill, but this is something we’ve got to keep working on,” Halligan said. “I’m grateful to Appropriations Chair Clark Jolley for agreeing to hear HB 2642. The bottom line is we’ve got to find a way to do a better job of addressing the educational needs of Oklahoma’s children.”

Denney chairs the House Appropriations and Budget Committee on Common Education. She said lawmakers value the work of educators in their districts.

“I want the educators of Oklahoma to know we are working hard to get them the funding they need to serve their students,” said Denney, R-Cushing. “This legislation creates a mechanism that will increase education funding and ensure it gets to schools earlier. The bill may not be in its final form, because any fiscal bill is always subject to budget negotiations, but the strong support it has received thus far indicates that it is an issue near and dear to legislators.”

For more information, contact:
Sen. Halligan: (405) 521-5572

 

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