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School funds found by state budget officials

Posted at 7:32 PM, Feb 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-17 20:32:54-05

The State Department of Education says deep budget cuts to Oklahoma schools may not be as deep as once anticipated.

State budget officials say they found revenue inside the 1017 fund that will free up $19 million dollars.

The 1017 fund was established in 1990 solely for education. Experts say it's been a large source of funding for schools ever since, and that's why they feel the fund has been mismanaged.

Crystal James has taught Coweta students for 26 years, and she remembers when 1017 fund was created.

“Raises were tremendous. We felt we were really making some money worth our time and education,” said James.

But that's changed with recent budget cuts and she says it's also taken its toll on students.

“We've not had general supplies, we've not had a wish list,” said James.

The Board of Equalization planned for a $19 million dollar shortfall in the 1017 fund, a revolving fund fueled by sales tax and gaming revenues. Now budget officials say that cut won't have to happen when they found $43 million in the fund this year.

“They're cutting dramatically, but apparently they don't even know what is there to spend, so who's asleep at the wheel?” said former State Board of Education member Tim Gilpin.

Gilpin says the money is good news for classrooms, but the move brings up more questions than answers.

“If the house bill 1017 revolving fund is not being monitored, not being reported to the State Board of Equalization, how can we trust their other numbers?” said Gilpin.

The Department of Education says time will tell whether the money will be made available to schools this fiscal year, but James says she's optimistic for her student's sake.

“Our kids are our number one resource for the future, and when we don't do right by them, the whole system fails,” said James.

The 1017 fund is just one source of funding for schools.

The Department of Education says there will still be additional cuts coming to public schools in the next several weeks from other areas including the general revenue fund and another fueled by oil taxes.

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