Oklahoma State Board of Education members on Monday reviewed preliminary numbers for a possible $289 million Fiscal Year 2014 budget increase request for public schools to be made to the State Legislature as lawmakers draw closer to the 2013 session. The Board will vote on a budget request at its next regular meeting on October 25.
The preliminary numbers board members reviewed Monday include dollars for statewide implementation of reforms, as well as funds for teachers and school personnel.
State Supt. Janet Barresi said the new budget request, if approved, would represent a shift toward demonstrating a return on investment to taxpayers by tying state funds for schools to detailed performance metrics in areas such as gains in core subjects such as reading and math, results of a statewide Teacher and Leader Effectiveness system, and gains in closing the state's achievement gaps for minority students.
Additionally, with an increase in state aid to public schools, the state would anticipate that local superintendents would use a portion of the new dollars to boost teacher salaries. While the manner and method of teacher pay increases would be left to local decision making, Barresi said it was essential that budget talks this year include an emphasis on better teacher pay.
"The increased funds we're asking for focus on better pay for teachers and on results in our schools. It's time for a new conversation about our state's education spending that focuses on targeted strategies and clear-cut results," said Barresi. "While the State Board will likely ask for more dollars, we'll do so within a responsible and productive framework. This budget request represents increases for programs and support for reforms, but we should tie those increases to accountability. In much the same way that our state's transportation department has been able to show real results to taxpayers by improving our roads and bridges infrastructure and investing in hard assets, we need to begin showing an educational end product that demonstrates success."
Barresi said the new budget request would also be tied directly to the state's C3 Plan to have all students graduating from an Oklahoma high school ready for college, career and citizenship by the year 2020. The C3 Plan has seven primary goals: an effective teacher in every classroom, and an effective leader in every school; an increase in the number of students in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) pipeline; and stair step readiness goals in kindergarten, fourth grade, sixth grade, high school and upon graduation.
Board members reviewed preliminary numbers that include a $234 million increase in state aid to public schools — from about $1.8 billion in FY 2013 to a possible increase of more than $2 billion.
The budget request would also ask for nearly $46 million more in the state's public school activities fund — targeting key areas for reform implementation such as third grade reading readiness, Advanced Placement teacher training, ACE (Achieving Classroom Excellence) end-of-instruction requirements remediation, additional money for the state's new Teacher and Leader Effectiveness System, and funds for the state's student information system to provide more precise information for teachers in the classroom.
The budget increase also would go toward a competitive grants pool for schools to spur innovations and reforms throughout the state.