By Mark Rountree
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Oklahoma’s highest ranking school administrator said Wednesday morning the restoration of school funding is the top priority in common education.
“At the top of our agenda is making sure districts have the monetary resources they need to begin to provide appropriate services to the children,” State Superintendent Janet Barresi said. “(The budget) has been cut for many years in a row. It’s time to start climbing out of that hole, and we will be very focused on doing what we can to make sure that we educate legislators, visit with them and hear their concerns, but then also press our case to assure that funding is restored back to our schools.”
On Tuesday, Barresi asked a joint House and Senate budget committee for $37.7 million in supplemental funding to finish out the fiscal year, and called for an additional $289 million next fiscal year.
Even while state funding for education has decreased more than 10 percent in the past four years, schools are being forced to comply with new requirements that students demonstrate reading proficiency before advancing to third grade and pass a series of end-of-instruction tests before graduating high school.
Barresi joined a panel of state lawmakers and area school administrators during a 90-minute discussion at the Stillwater Public Schools Administration Building, the latest stop on her statewide Raise The Grade Tour.
Barresi said she visits at least one school district each week during the school term. Barresi was scheduled to meet with Stillwater Public School principals and curriculum teams later Wednesday morning before going to Stillwater High School for a roundtable meeting with students and teachers.
“It has been most instructive to me,” Barresi said. “I started doing it the second week I was in office, and I have learned so much. There is nothing like being in a school district, hearing concerns, visiting with teachers, sometimes visiting with students, to hear their perspective. No report that is sitting on my desk can convey that information.”