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State education funding update as of 4/1/2018

posted Apr 1, 2018, 10:42 AM by Granger Meador   [ updated Apr 2, 2018, 3:21 PM ]
Fallin signs teacher pay raises into law
In late March 2018 the legislature, pressured by an impending statewide teacher walkout on April 2, passed and the governor signed into law enough new revenues to fully fund:
  • teacher pay raises
  • school support employee pay raises
  • restoration of the state textbooks activity fund
  • the annual increase in school employee health insurance benefits
  • some additional operational funding through the state aid formula

As of April 1, Governor Fallin had also signed into law the teacher pay raises while the bill with the education appropriation authority for the remaining items as well as the school support pay raise bill had been sent to her but not yet signed.

However, the legislature also sent to the governor a bill for state employee pay raises, and there was not sufficient new revenue yet signed into law to fully cover that cost. So while the increased education funding seems secure to cover the costs of the various school measures, how the legislature will balance the budget and cover that state worker pay raise is yet to be determined.

Fiscal summary:
  • The Governor has signed into law what the Oklahoma Tax Commission estimates as $496,385,450 million in new revenue available for appropriation for the next fiscal year.
  • The legislature has passed and sent to the Governor a bill appropriating $480,188,942 for the schools, and the House Majority Floor Leader indicated it would be used as follows:
    • $353,501,793 for teacher pay raises
    • $52,000,000 for school support employee pay raises
    • $33,000,000 for textbooks
    • $24,687,149 to cover Flexible Benefits Allowance costs
    • $17,000,000 additional through the State Aid formula
  • OUTSIDE OF EDUCATION, the legislature also sent to the Governor a bill for state employee pay raises which would cost $63,765,398. But the remaining new revenue is only $16,196,508. So there is a $47,568,890 gap that would have to be dealt with by one or more of the following options:
    • Further new revenues to provide that increased appropriation authority
    • Tapping growth revenue, revolving funds, and/or one-time accounts
    • Decreasing appropriations to agencies other than the State Department of Education (or passing and having Governor Fallin accept a reduction in the SDE appropriation already sent to her for consideration, which is highly unlikely)

What are teachers demanding in their walk out?

On 4/2, the teacher demands seemed to be coalescing around two main issues:


Teacher Pay Raises

The State Minimum Teacher Salary Schedule has been increased from $5,001 for a teacher with a bachelor's degree and no teaching experience to $8,395 for a teacher with a doctoral degree and 25 or more years of teaching experience. The raises range from 15.8 to 18.25%.
The Governor has been sent but as of 4/1 had not yet signed HB 1026xx to provide a raise of $1,250 for school support employees. It includes a provision to pro-rate the raise for employees who are not full time.

However, this raise would not apply to outsourced employees since they are not employed by the district, and the district would also not expect increased state funding for outsourced positions. In 2017-18 that includes our district's custodians, school-age care workers, and lawn services. In 2018-19 that would also likely include child nutrition workers, although the outsourcing of that group is expected to result in improved performance on worker benefits.

Restoration of the State Textbooks Activity Fund

In 2016 the state eliminated $33,000,000 in funding for textbooks. That will be restored and available for the 2019 textbook adoption of Language Arts & Instructional Technology (which does NOT include Reading & Literature).

This will yield less than the cost of one typical textbook per student per year, but would still be a considerable boost to the district, which currently must rely entirely on school bond funding for textbooks.

The textbooks purchased now and in the future for our secondary schools will consist of electronic licenses for use with take-home Chromebooks, with a limited number of physical copies. Elementary schools will still rely on physical copies until more elementary-age devices are available.

Annual Increase in School Employee Health Insurance Benefits

The House Majority Leader indicated that the increased cost in FY19 of the state Flexible Benefit Allowance as state health insurance premiums rise should be covered at no cost to the district.

Some Additional Operational Funding through the State Aid Formula

The House Majority Leader indicated that $17,000,000 in new revenue will flow to districts through the State Aid formula. However, the district is already facing a loss of funding due to enrollment factors, and the increase in State Aid will not offset that. So we are not expecting any net new revenue to help us address class sizes, instructional supply budgets, or restoration of electives or programs.

False Rumors

Bartlesville's leadership on the funding issues can be a double-edged sword. We have seen claims the district made some sort of deal with legislators to only participate for one day in a walkout in exchange for them passing something resembling the Bartlesville plan.

That is absolutely untrue. Our teachers were at the multiple input meetings we had almost every day last week, with many at the general meeting last Thursday when teachers spoke freely on all sides of the walkout issue. The group consensus at that point was to walk out on Monday and plan to return to class on Tuesday.

Once our teachers reached an obvious new consensus that a longer walkout was justified, our superintendent used the school board's authorization to extend the walkout. 

Bartlesville has led the way this year, and is willing to continue to lead or to follow if called upon to do so. Sounds like the OEA and other groups are working on a specific plan, and we Bartians love plans - because they work!