House Democrats pressed their colleagues this week on the House floor to invest in Oklahoma’s education system by finally passing an education budget and “Fund Ed First.”
In 2003, the legislature mandated the passage of a common education budget by April 1.
The only time the deadline has been met and education has received their budget by April 1 was by the last Democratic-controlled Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2004.
“The legislature breaks the law and there are no repercussions,” said Rep. Jerry McPeak, D-Warner.
“We should be held accountable. I attempted to run a bill this year that would take a day’s salary from representatives and senators for every day after April 1st that they failed to pass an education budget. It wasn’t heard by committee. If we can’t live up to the law, we should have to pay. Our folks at home do.”
“Our schools need this budget by April 1st so they can make staffing decisions for the next academic year,” said Rep. Ed Cannaday, D-Porum. “Yet year after year, the legislature has dragged its feet passing a budget. Would a business owner do that? I don’t think so. We don’t even know what the supplemental budget is from last year. Let’s be responsible and help our schools properly educate our children with the proper funding.”
“Knowing our budget by spring helped me as a school administrator plan for the upcoming year,” said Rep. Curtis McDaniel, D-Smithville. “We talk a lot up here about the uncertainty for business owners due to an uncertain tax code. Imagine planning for a school district, whatever the size, with no sense of your budget for the coming year. We have the power to fix that and we should.”
“House Republicans tried to repeal the ‘Fund Ed First’ statute in committee, and thankfully that didn’t make it to the floor of the House,” said Rep. Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City. “As elected officials, as lawmakers, this House cannot blatantly disregard the law.”
“With looming federal cuts underway through Federal Sequestration, now more than ever our timely state investment is needed for providing local school districts the resources they need,” said Rep. Seneca Scott, D-Tulsa. “Teachers and support personnel are some of main winners when we invest in our schools with growing state revenues. Our children will also reap the rewards. However, we all lose when we kick the can down the road.”
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Democratic Floor Leader Ben Sherrer of Pryor motioned to suspend the House Rules in order to comply with state law and pass an education budget, including a $100 million increase to meet the needs of Oklahoma schools.
Sherrer’s motion was defeated by a partisan vote, 27-60.