Sen. Brian Crain is promoting legislation for the 2015 session to secure critically needed additional education funding in Oklahoma by creating separate trusts for higher and common education through two 30-year, $2.5 billion bond issues.
The innovative solution to Oklahoma's efforts to secure permanent additional education funding would raise money over 30 years to create the trusts, which would provide money for education in addition to standard appropriations.
"While the investment will take about 30 years to pay off, the trusts that are created will be eternal," said Crain, R-Tulsa. "They will last as long as the state of Oklahoma."
The $2.5 billion trust for higher education would be invested to secure Oklahoma's continued relevance in the career fields in the highest current and expected future demand: science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. The trust would help recruit and retain faculty, provide tuition assistance to students in those disciplines who agree to remain in Oklahoma for at least five years after graduation, and help research foundations that work with universities in those areas.
Forty percent of the funding would go to the University of Oklahoma, 40 percent would go to Oklahoma State University, and the additional 20 percent would be earmarked for regional colleges and universities."
The $2.5 billion trust for common education would be used to increase teacher salaries in similar disciplines to those supported by the higher education trust: science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The common education trust would be controlled by a board of stakeholders like educators, administrators, parents and business leaders. The board members will be appointed by the School Land Commission, the President Pro Tempore of the Oklahoma State Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The higher education trust would be controlled by a board chaired by the State Treasurer or a designee and appointees from the Governor, State Auditor and Inspector, Senate President Tempore and Speaker of the House of Representatives.
The bond issue legislation will include a clause that requires the Legislature to maintain existing education funding and not consider the trust money to replace standard appropriations. The bond issues would need approval from the full Legislature, and would then be put to a statewide vote.
"This gives the people of Oklahoma the opportunity to say, 'This is where we want our money spent,'" Crain said.