State Department of Education asks lawmakers to increase education funding by $440 million

  • Emily Wendler

State Department of Education

A graph showing the growth in the student population and decline in teacher population.

The State Department of Education is asking lawmakers to increase education funding by a total of $440 million next year.

Included in the agency’s budget proposal for the 2019-2020 public school year is a request for an additional $273 million to help school districts hire more teachers and reduce class sizes.

State education officials say Oklahoma’s student population has grown by 40,000 students since 2010 but schools have 1,500 fewer teachers than they did eight years ago.

‘We simply have to have an investment in this area in order to see this gap begin to narrow,” said Carolyn Thompson, the education department’s Chief of Government Affairs.

The budget proposal for lawmakers to consider during the 2019 legislative session also includes a new line item: $58 million to help districts hire more counselors. Oklahoma’s current student to counselor ratio is 435 to 1. The American School Counselor Association recommends a ratio of 250 to 1.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is also asking the Legislature for $5.3 million to improve training for new and emergency certified teachers.

The agency asked for an increase of $470 million last year. It got most of that in the form of a teacher pay raise, which it is not seeking this year.

The agency’s new budget request also includes:

  • An increase of $30 million to help schools pay for alternative education programs
  • An increase of $20 million for growing health care costs
  • An increase of $5.3 million for schools to implement the Reading Sufficiency Act