Education bill gets tabled

The Vice-Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Sen. Greg Treat, said that his legislation to modify how Pre-K classes are funded will not be heard this session.
Senate Bill 1324 would have removed early childhood education from the State Aid formula and allowed local school districts to make decisions on Pre-K education freeing up much-needed funds for K-12 public education.

In January, the State Board of Education had to make a mandatory three percent or $46.7 million cut to its budget because of the General Revenue failure for FY’16.

“We’re facing a nearly $1 billion revenue shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year, which may require cuts to common education,” said Treat, R-Oklahoma City. “I introduced Senate Bill 1324 to explore the option of giving local school districts more flexibility over funding streams for Pre-K. State resources are limited and this bill would allow local officials to shift funds from Pre-K to serve students in K-12. These would not be new taxes but rather existing local funding streams that are currently restricted by state statute.”

Last month, the State Board of Education had to make a mandatory three percent or $46.7 million cut to its budget because of the General Revenue failure for the current fiscal year.

Treat said he is disappointed that Senate Education Chairman John Ford has said he will not give the bill a hearing this year but is pleased that Ford has agreed to chair an interim study (pending approval by the President Pro Tempore) later this year to continue the discussion about Pre-K.

“It’s disappointing we won’t have a chance this session to discuss my idea to free up much-needed funds for K-12 education but I’m pleased that Senator Ford has agreed to chair an interim study later this year to continue to look at both the effectiveness of Pre-K and whether there is a better way to fund it,” said Treat. “I appreciate the chairman’s honest disagreement with my position and look forward to studying the issue with him moving forward.”

Treat noted that several recent studies have called into question the long-term effectiveness of Pre-K.

“Oklahomans expect us to constantly examine the effectiveness of all government programs so successful programs can be expanded and unsuccessful programs can be fixed or eliminated,” said Treat. “This is a program that was instituted because of its reported long-term benefits in students’ academic careers as well as their success in the workforce and other areas. If those benefits are now being proven false, then we may need to reevaluate how we approach early childhood education.”

If SB 1324 is not heard by the Senate Education Committee, it will be considered dead and cannot be brought back up this session. Treat asks that educators and parents contact him to share their thoughts on this issue.

“The feedback I have received since I filed this legislation is welcomed and I look forward to working with educators and parents to find evidence-based ways to improve our education system,” said Treat. “We can’t be afraid of having a frank dialogue to seek solutions that are most beneficial to the education of our children.”