Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: April 2, 2014
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,
Sen. Halligan: (405) 521-5572