School officials and administrators from across Oklahoma gave poor marks to a proposal to cut public school funding by 10% in fiscal 2011, during testimony last week at the monthly meeting of the State Board of Education.

All state agencies, including the Oklahoma Department of Education, have been told to plan for up to a 10% budget reduction next year from fiscal 2010 due to a prolonged slump in revenue collections.

Robert Burton, chief of staff with Tulsa County Independent School District No. 1, called the proposed cuts “heinous” and “nefarious” in his testimony to the State Board of Education.

“There is a lack of cooperation between parents and educators, educators to educators, parents to parents, educators to legislators, legislators to legislators, and that is not acceptable,” Burton said. “Let’s stop worrying about adult problems and start focusing on child-oriented issues.”

The state board unanimously approved a message to lawmakers asserting that school funding should be protected, even if that requires new tax revenue.

The resolution contains a warning that “the primary mission of education and past advancements made in Oklahoma’s education system are in jeopardy due to the current fiscal emergency.”

Lealon Taylor, chief of staff for state superintendent Sandy Garrett, told a House subcommittee on education that a 10% cut in state support for local education could result in 5,000 fewer teachers.

Taylor said the 531 local school districts in Oklahoma employ a total of about 50,000 teachers. About 85% of all district revenue goes to teacher and staff salaries, he said.

Shelly Hickman of the Oklahoma Department of Education said a 10% reduction in state funding would mean $244 million less for public education in fiscal 2011 than in fiscal 2010.

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