OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that seeks to correct funding disparities for brick-and-mortar public schools in low property value areas while addressing charter school funding passed the House on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 229 creates the Redbud School Funding Act, which proposes using medical marijuana taxes and the Common School Building Equalization Fund to provide annual per-student funding grants to eligible school districts and charter schools.
The measure is authored in the House by Reps. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow; Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon; Mark McBride, R-Moore; and many others.
“This bill creates funding certainty for all of our public schools,” Hilbert said. “A majority of school districts will receive more funding under this act, without creating winners and losers.”
Baker, the chair of the House Common Education Committee, added, “We’ve expanded funding for education to historic levels over the past five years. We are paying our teachers more and making other positive investments as we seek to make our students among the best prepared in the nation. This measures takes us to the next step of equalizing funding.”
Mark McBride is chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee for Education.
“Students in all of our public schools deserve the same funding,” he said. “Students deserve updated textbooks, laboratory and science equipment, and all other materials they need to thrive in their academic environment.”
The bill came after the State Board of Education’s recent settlement with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association would have granted charter schools access to local property tax dollars that at present, only traditional public schools have the ability to access. If unchanged, the decision would shift tens of millions of local property tax dollars away from traditional public schools and into public charter schools.
The decision was made in part because charter schools receive $330 less per student in non-chargeable local revenue because they do not have access to these dollars. (Non-chargeable dollars are dollars that do not count against a school district for the purposes of state aid.) Charter schools also cannot pass bonds.
To correct this disparity, the Redbud School Funding Act would use medical marijuana taxes and the Common School Building Equalization Fund to meet the needs of brick-and-mortar charter school building needs.
It was also discovered, though, that students in 334 traditional Oklahoma school districts receive below average funding for their education from annual local tax revenue. This measure would allow the State Department of Education to use grants to equalize funding for those districts as well as the charter schools.
The bill’s primary authors said they worked with Oklahoma Education Secretary Ryan Walters, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, the State Department of Education, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and the Charter School Association to create the language of the bill.