Oklahoma City - A bill that would have saved millions of dollars through cost-sharing of school administrations is apparently dead for the session. Senate author Carol Martin and House author Joan Greenwood were told House Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Begley would not allow his committee to hear the bill this session.
"This legislation would simply have allowed school districts to save money through administrative cost-sharing. It would have been strictly on a voluntary basis, and it would not have resulted in the closing of any schools. What this legislation would have done however, is save literally millions of dollars. That's money that could have gone back into the classroom for teacher salaries, textbooks, computers and other materials that would have directly benefited the students," said Senator Martin, R-Comanche.
The legislators pointed out that in fiscal 1998, 58% of the $2.9 billion education dollars was allocated for classroom teachers, with the rest going to fund administration, transportation, food services, janitorial staff and security.
"Obviously those are things we have to have, but you also have to look at the fact that we have 544 school districts in this state. Each of those has its own administration, and it is costing Oklahoma taxpayers millions and millions of dollars every single year, " said Representative Greenwood.
"Think of how much more we could do for our students if some districts would simply share administration and related costs. Just 1% from non-classroom expenditures translates into $18 million dollars in savings," said Senator Martin.
SB 1544 had won approval both in Senate committee and by the full Senate. However the actions of Representative Begley have effectively killed the legislation for the session.
"The deadline for getting legislation from the other chamber out of committee was yesterday. While it is true there are various ways of bringing issues back to life, I'm not optimistic about being able to do that when a member of the House Leadership is so obviously opposed to the bill," said Representative Greenwood, R-Moore.
However Senator Martin and Representative Greenwood said they remain convinced the legislation could help hundreds of Oklahoma schools invest more in the classroom, including computers and other technology. The lawmakers said they would continue to urge leadership to reconsider their position, and hope to bring the legislation back next session.