A group of Republican lawmakers have proposed a school funding plan that will nullify a controversial settlement announced by Oklahoma’s State Board of Education and fix funding disparities between charter and traditional public schools.
The Redbud School Funding Act – Senate Bill 229 – would disburse medical marijuana funds to Oklahoma schools that receive the least local tax revenues. It is being cosponsored by Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow and will likely be heard by the House of Representatives this week.
If it had been in place this year, it would’ve led to $39 million going to schools for building-related improvements.
The measure works like this: if a school district receives below the state average of per student building fund dollars – from either local or state revenues – that district would receive a grant to make up for it.
“This bill fixes funding disparities and ends the uncertainty the Board of Education’s legal settlement created,” a statement from the Republican representatives and senators who are sponsoring the bill said. “A majority of school districts will receive more funding under the Redbud School Funding Act without taking funds from one type of school to fund another. While the board’s decision benefited charter schools at the expense of traditional schools, this bill benefits all schools in a constitutional, equitable manner we expect will find broad support.”
The bill would also prevent charter schools from receiving certain local and state revenues for building and prevent them from issuing bonds, which public school advocates had objected to.
It has already been supported by charter and public school advocates.
Oklahoma State School Boards Association and the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, signed a joint letter in support of the measure.
“Our team has worked closely with legislators and other education groups on the bill language and believe this is a unique opportunity to provide equitable funding for public school students while avoiding costly litigation with an uncertain outcome,” a letter OSSBA CCOSA Executive Directors Shawn Hime and Pam Deering sent to members said. “Please make time to visit with your legislators about supporting this bill.”
Chris Brewster, President of the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association and superintendent of Santa Fe South Charter Schools in Oklahoma City, also supports the bill.
“We have been working toward this solution for the better part of 3 years in one way or another,” he wrote in an email. “I am thrilled with the outcome, which is what we had hoped would happen. This solution helps hundreds of thousands of [Oklahoma] kids and the districts which serve them, to be better able to provide quality education spaces.”
The bill has a long way to go before becoming law. It would need to be passed in both chambers and ultimately signed by Governor Kevin Stitt to go into effect.
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