Parents of Oklahoma students not satisfied with Fallin's 2014 education funding

TULSA - During her state of the state address Monday, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced a plan to give public schools an additional $22 million in funding this fiscal year, but some parents don't believe that is enough.

Under Fallin's plan, $13.5 million would pay for newly enacted reforms and $8.5 million would be used to pay for teacher benefits.

The amount in the governor's proposal is about $15 million less than what State Superintendent Janet Baressi requested from the Legislature.

"I felt like there was a lot of hype going into the State of the State address on how education was going to be the forefront of the discussion, and to me it was a huge letdown," said Tulsa mother Marlow Perkins Sipes.

Sipes co-founded 49th Is Not OK, a group comprised of parents who want more money for education.

"Probably the thing I learned the most is that parent's voices in Oklahoma are extremely effective," she said.

David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, felt the same way about the governor's speech.

"This year's budget is down by over $200 million compared to where we were three to four years go," said Blatt.

Blatt said this year's education funding might have made sense during the recession's peak, but not anymore.

"For a while you could attribute it to the economic downturn and revenues falling short, but we have seen some revenue growth in recent years and yet the increased funding for education just isn't there," he said.

A spokesperson said education remains a top priority for Fallin.

"(Fallin) has also said she is open to additional funding increases in this Fiscal Year as state revenue figures are adjusted upward to reflect recent growth. She is committed to working with lawmakers, the education community and parents to improve our schools and get our kids the education they need," said Alex Weintz, the governor's spokesperson.

Weintz added, "As we continue the discussion about education funding in Oklahoma, it's important to remember the state has limited resources."

A spokesperson for Superintendent Baressi said the department of education would work with lawmakers to find additional funding this session.

"The superintendent is thankful to Gov. Fallin for funding for implementation of reforms and for health insurance benefits for school employees. We will be working with legislators throughout this session to identify additional funding sources for things such as professional development, reading sufficiency and state aid formula dollars for schools," said Tricia Pemberton with the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

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