State board of education requests $3.18 billion budget

At last month’s board meeting, Tulsa Public Schools forecast a potential funding crisis next year if school districts don’t receive more support. Tulsa Chief Innovation Officer Andrea Castaneda said it’s unsustainable to cover costs for both brick-and-mortar schools and a virtual academy.

Oklahoma City Public Schools gave a similar outlook. Superintendent Sean McDaniel said the district’s $17 million allocation from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) didn’t cover all COVID-related expenses.

“We’re going to be in dire straits if we don’t continue to get funding,” McDaniel said at an August press conference. “In no way does the CARES (Act) money or any other stimulus money that’s come to us balance us.”

The $2.2 trillion stimulus bill allocated $160 million to Oklahoma schools and nearly $40 million to Gov. Kevin Stitt to support education.

It remains unclear whether the U.S. Congress will pass a second iteration of the CARES Act, but Oklahoma education advocates say public schools urgently need more federal support.

“We have been very clear with our federal delegation that Oklahoma schools desperately need federal stimulus dollars to help bridge the gap into next school year and to ensure that they’re able to deliver the high-quality education that our students and parents expect,” said Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.

School districts will have to spend all of their CARES Act money by June 30, 2022 — a rule the Oklahoma State Department of Education is creating to ensure funds are exhausted before the federal deadline.

The state budget is meant to cover basic needs for public education while the CARES Act is a supplement for COVID-related costs, said Carolyn Thompson, chief of governmental affairs for the state Education Department.

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