The state Department of Education (SDE) shared its FY’22 budget request of $2.41 billion, an increase of $110.8 million over its FY’21 budget, to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education Monday. Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, is a member of the committee and released the following statement regarding the agency’s budget request.
“The State Department of Education’s budget request provides a clear and concise plan to fully fund public schools. Oklahoma law entrusts Superintendent Hofmeister the power to define the needs of Oklahoma’s public schools, and the legislature is required by the constitution to fund those needs.
“I’m pleased that the Department of Education’s budget request includes an increase for textbooks. This is a constitutional requirement that has been defunded over the years. Our educators can’t teach, and students can’t learn with outdated textbooks. When the legislature fails to fully fund textbooks, textbook companies do not compete for funds to design and publish books tailored to the needs of Oklahoma. Also, a lack of textbook funding by the state shifts the financial burden to local communities who depend on local property values. We’ve seen too many pictures of stacks of books tattered and torn, which end up in schools that do not have property values high enough to replace them. Children in poor communities are entitled to the same quality of instructional materials as those living in wealthier areas, and the legislature should fund the SDE request.
“Dolly Parton’s Imagine Library program was also included in the agency’s budget request. If funded, this innovative program ensures every Oklahoma child receives one book a month for the first five years of their life. Dolly’s Imagine Library celebrates the pride and joy of a child owning their own books to read with their parents. Leveraging matching funds, the Imagine Library program overcomes the financial barriers that keep many families from enjoying books in the home. This program seeks to prepare children for school by leveraging reading, which complements the SDE’s budget for the Reading Sufficiency Act and a goal for having 75% of all kindergarten students being ready to read.
“I’m also encouraged that the SDE budget request includes the necessary funds to hire additional school counselors. Last year, I filed a bill to increase time school counselors spend face-to-face with students. By funding the SDE’s budgetary request, we can hire more counselors and work towards reaching the national standards of one counselor for every 250 students. Increasing access to school counselors will be critical to overcome the emotional challenges brought about by isolation and stress from the pandemic.
“COVID changed everything, including our state budget. Investing in public schools is essential to our economic recovery, and I hope my colleagues in the House and Senate will prioritize our constitutional duties by allocating the funds requested by the SDE to fully fund the public schools that serve more than 700,000 students, their teachers and families.”
For more information contact: Sen. Boren: (405) 521-5553 or Mary.Boren@oksenate.gov
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