Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Subcommittee Approves Bill to Shift Education Funds to Classroom

Legislation that would require schools to devote a minimum percentage of their spending on direct instructional activities was passed by a House appropriations subcommittee today.
House Bill 1746, by state Reps. Jason Nelson and David Brumbaugh, would require school districts to spend at least 57 percent of total yearly expenditures on direct instructional activities in the 2011-2012 year, at least 60 percent in the 2012-2013 year, at least 63 percent in the 2013-2014 year, and at least 65 percent in the 2014-2015 year and thereafter. School districts could file for a one-year exemption if they could show that they had reduced administrative expenses.

“Education is vital to our success as a state and I am committed to ensuring that taxpayer dollars go directly to benefit Oklahoma students,” said Nelson, R-Oklahoma City. “My legislation will simply ensure instructional spending is prioritized over other expenses, as most Oklahomans would expect it to be.”

Rep. David Brumbaugh
R-Broken Arrow
“We’re setting a percentage of all taxpayer dollars that have to be used in the classroom on direct instructional costs and requiring more fiscal responsibility in the way our schools use our hard-earned tax dollars,” Brumbaugh, R-Broken Arrow, said. “We want to get the resources to the kids that the schools are supposed to be educating.”

The legislation would also require school districts to gain approval for any plan to dismiss or lay off teachers.

“Unfortunately, some school districts address financial pressures by cutting in the wrong places,” Nelson said. “The idea behind this provision would be to ensure teachers are protected instead of administrators or other non-essential staff.”

Nelson said that total yearly expenditures would not include capital construction, debt or bond payments.

“School bonds are a local source of funding and the state should have no say over how local funding is spent,” Nelson said. “My legislation is focused on operating costs.”

The legislation would require school districts to file an annual report to the State Board of Education that would include the percentage of total expenditures that had been used to fund direct instructional activities, the percent of total expenditures used to fund direct instructional activities related to courses that are subject to assessment pursuant to the Oklahoma School Testing Program and the percentage of full-time employees in the district whose job function was to directly provide classroom instruction to students.

“Obviously, accountability needs to be a part of any reform and the reporting ensures that school districts are doing what the new law requires,” Nelson said.

“We spend hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes and in bond issues, but the money never gets to our teachers, students and principals who make our schools succeed,” Brumbaugh said.
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