State Education Board OKs cuts

The State Board of Education approved $38.2 million in mandated cuts to a line item called Support of Public School Activities.

Also known as the Public School Activities Fund, its appropriation was reduced from $130 million last year to $92 million for Fiscal Year 2017. Support of Public School Activities provides line-item support for an array of initiatives ranging from professional development to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.

Funding for programs such as the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System and SoonerStart must be set aside to meet statutory, state matching and maintenance of effort requirements. That left the State Board to make hard decisions on budgetary recommendations made by the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE).

“These are very difficult cuts to make, but they are unavoidable in light of the reduced budget for the Public Schools Activities Fund,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister. “We have made every effort to spare as much as we can in light of the significant size of this mandated cut, and we certainly recognize the importance of these fine programs. In the end, however, we have no option given this year’s historic revenue shortfall.”

Out of 28 programs identified in the line item, the State Board of Education approved the elimination of funding for 11 and reduced funding for 13 others.

“As challenging as these cuts were to make, I am particularly grateful that the Board shares my commitment to such priorities as SoonerStart, alternative education, the early childhood initiative, early literacy and academic standards implementation.”