The Oklahoma State Board of Education today prioritized a budget focus on early learning and strengthening young readers. Other priority areas included support for a well-rounded education that includes arts education as well as expanded supports and training for educators and new teachers. At the board’s regular monthly meeting, officials from the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) presented the Fiscal Year 2018 budget as appropriated by the legislature for Pre-K through 12th grade public education.

“Restoring funding in early childhood initiatives and those that support struggling readers with the Reading Sufficiency Act will help bolster early literacy efforts for Oklahoma’s neediest young learners as schools work to implement more challenging academic standards,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “Directing funding to these targeted initiatives will benefit Oklahoma’s at-risk schoolchildren and prepare them to excel in all subjects and grades.”

Schools will assess the reading skills of children in kindergarten through third grade at the beginning of the school year and receive reading allocation funds based on the number of those whose skills do not meet grade level targets.

Other programs that received funding increases over last year include the Oklahoma Arts Institute, Ag in the Classroom, Teach for America and high-need areas like alternative education, professional learning for educators and initiatives to combat the state’s ongoing teacher shortage.

The public education funding formula received a flat budget for FY18 that maintains funding from the Legislature’s initial appropriation for FY17. But reductions in funding in prior fiscal years included a $38 million cut to the Support of Public School Activities budget in FY17, which resulted in the loss of 38 education programs.

“Enduring these losses for the second fiscal year in a row means many essential programs in support of children and educators will again be without funding for the start of the new school year beginning July 1,” Hofmeister said.