House proposal would cut education funding (Journal Record)

By Kateleigh Mills

OKLAHOMA CITY – The proposed House bill that would appropriate money to state agencies for the fiscal year that begins July 1 would cut funding to several education agencies by nearly 5 percent.

Photos of the revised version of House Bill 2400 were posted by state Sen. David Holt on Twitter. Six of 11 state agencies classified under education would receive a 4.87-percent cut, while nine out of 11 would have cuts above 3 percent.

David Blatt, executive director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said the cuts proposed would most likely result in school programs cut, vacant positions left open, increases in class sizes and tuition, and teachers leaving the state to look for a better income. He also said that the accumulation of cuts to higher education over the last decade would be hitting the 30-percent mark if HB 2400 passes.

“It’s going to be another really difficult year,” Blatt said.

Blatt also said that for the 10th or 11th straight year, the proposed appropriations bill is still not offering any pay raises to teachers.

“These cuts are not as large as many agencies feared, but it’s just an accumulation of ratcheting down to keep up with the rising costs,” Blatt said.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute has been sending out advocacy alerts urging citizens to call their state legislators to vote down this budget. He also said that Oklahoma Policy is calling on people to wear black and bring flashlights to the state Capitol as a representation of HB 2400 being pushed through committee late on Tuesday night.

“It is better to go into special session and to come up with real revenue options,” Blatt said.

One of the state agencies that would receive a cut if the bill passes is the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. According to the data posted by Holt, the State Regents would have an overall cut of 4.5 percent from last year’s appropriation of $810 million. The 4.5-percent cut would result in an appropriation from the state of about $773 million, coming a year after a 16-percent cut to higher education.

Angela Caddell, associate vice chancellor for communications for the State Regents, wrote in an email that the additional 4.5-percent cut for fiscal year 2018 would result in additional furloughs and reductions of academic programs, personnel, student services, and college degree completion initiatives.

Trent England, vice president for strategic initiatives for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, said that another year with cuts to education is more complicated than looking at what the state would be appropriating. He said that a lot of the state agencies under education receive additional funding from other sources.

England said a couple of agencies that are worth looking into include the Department of Career and Technology Education and the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority since the agencies receive additional funding from other sources.

“You have to know about how (state agencies) receive other sources of revenue because for some agencies the appropriation is 100 percent of what they spend while some agencies get additional funding elsewhere,” England said.

Another source of revenue for these state agencies might come from private individuals, federal funding or what is called revolving funds, which is where the Legislature creates some special tax or fee and directs it to a specific agency.

“All that (revolving funds) means is that at some point in the past they have created a fee that goes straight to the specific agency,” England said.

There are some agencies that will take a cut to appropriations but might still end up spending more because of how they are funded, England said.

The OCPA has supported a teacher pay raise and hopes that the Legislature will make some sort of plan to incorporate it into the budget. However, England suggested that the Legislature look at how education money is allocated and see if some of it could be used for a pay raise.

HB 2400 could either pass this week or fail and force legislators to meet in a special session.


Margaret (Maggie) den Harder obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Christian Theology from Seattle Pacific University and a Master of Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. Originally from the Pacific Northwest area of Washington state, Maggie has called Tulsa home for the past 8 years. Since living in Tulsa, Maggie has worked in the legal field, higher education administration, and the nonprofit sector as well as actively volunteering in the community. Maggie also recently spent time at the City of Tulsa as a consultant and wrote the content for Resilient Tulsa, an action-oriented strategy designed to better equity in Tulsa. Through her work, community involvement, and personal experiences, Maggie is interested in the intersection of the law and mental health and addiction treatment issues, preventative and diversion programs, and maternal mental health, particularly post-partum depression and post-partum psychosis. While working at Oklahoma Policy Institute as a research intern, Maggie further developed an interest in family dynamics and stability, economic security-related stress, and intergenerational trauma.

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