Monday, March 12, 2007

Rabon: House Must Act Now on Supplemental Funding for Education

State Sen. Jeff Rabon on Monday urged the Oklahoma House of Representatives to act quickly in approving a bill to provide supplemental funding for education.

Rabon said the Legislature must provide approximately $40 million in order to cover the costs of teacher pay raises approved last year and the increasing cost of health insurance benefit rates, or schools could be forced to cut personnel. The Oklahoma Constitution requires that all spending bills must originate in the House of Representatives before advancing to the Senate.

“The House needs to send a bill to provide supplemental funding and they need to do it quickly,” said Rabon, D-Hugo. “If the House doesn’t send us a supplemental this week, our schools will be faced with a funding crisis that could result in personnel cuts at schools throughout the state.”

Rabon noted that state Department of Education officials have stated that supplemental funding must be approved by March 15, in order to avoid funding cuts.

“Schools have already been forced to consider the possibility of terminating certified staff and support personnel and some already have,” Rabon said. “If this doesn’t send a message about the urgency of the issue, then nothing will. People’s jobs are at stake here, and the Legislature has a moral responsibility to provide the funding and resources we’ve promised to Oklahoma schools.”

Rabon said the Legislature has the funding available to cover the increased costs, but that action must be taken this week or more schools will be forced to consider layoffs.

“We’ve got the funding to do it – it’s just a matter of whether the House will get down to business and send us a bill in time to get funding to our schools,” Rabon said.

Rabon added that lagging lottery revenues have contributed to a shortfall in education funding that the Legislature must address. Recently, school districts throughout the state were notified by the State Department of Education that their budgets would be reduced if supplemental funding was not approved by the Legislature by the end of this week.

“We’ve made a promise to our schools and teachers and we have to follow through with what we’ve guaranteed them,” Rabon said. “But if the House doesn’t send us a vehicle through which we can provide our schools with the funding they need, we’re going to be faced with a crisis.”

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