OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Toni Hasenbeck recently commented on holding budget hearings as the vice chair of the Oklahoma House of Representatives Appropriations & Budget Education Subcommittee this week. Four of the state's smaller education-focused agencies presented their budget requests to the committee Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the state Capitol.
Agencies presenting requests were: The Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability, the Oklahoma Arts Council and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Each agency receives a budget appropriation from the state Legislature that is in addition to what the State Department of Education receives for the funding of all public schools.
“As my first involvement with the state budget process as a legislator, I found the hearings helpful and informative,” said Hasenbeck, R-Elgin. “I know this just scratches the bare surface of education funding, but it’s good to hear from agencies about what programs they feel are vital to our state’s residents so that we can prioritize our dollars.”
OETA is requesting $4.8 million for Fiscal Year 2020, an increase of $2 million from FY19. The authority is asking the Legislature for staff enhancement funds of $287,879 this year to bring their weekly Oklahoma News Report back up to an hour-long broadcast. The authority also wants $1.7 million to replace a transmitter in Eufala that is more than 15 years old. Directors spoke to the committee about its recent severance of its operational agreement with its former fundraising partner, the OETA Foundation, reassuring lawmakers this will not force the authority to come back to the Legislature with additional mid-year funding requests.
The Office of Educational Quality and Accountability for FY19 received a little over $1.6 million. The office is not asking for additional funding for the next fiscal year, but directors do want to make some changes in how appropriations are spent. They want to be able to fund teacher certification scholarships, for one, and to increase the number of scholarships offered to teachers wishing to attain National Board Certification. Funding flexibility will require a slight change to state statute.
The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) is requesting $22.5 million for FY20 to fund a greater portion of technology-based economic development projects with a particular focus on diversifying Oklahoma's economy. The center last year received more than $13.4 million.
Finally, the Oklahoma Arts Council (OAC) asked for $576,353 to fund four specific areas in FY20. These are: arts education in rural and low-performing schools and in alternative education programs; the Arts and the Military Initiative – a partnership between OAC and the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs to engage military populations or veterans’ communities through the arts; and for economic development funding to create cultural district initiatives in 20 new communities and to give community art grants.
“With money needed for classrooms and teachers in our state’s public schools, it remains to be seen what funding will be available to these outlying agencies,” Hasenbeck said. “But I very much appreciated their detailed information about how state dollars would be spent.”
Rep. Toni Hasenbeck serves District 65 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Grady, Stephens Counties. She can be contacted by e-mail at Toni.Hasenbeck@okhouse.gov or by phone at (405) 557-7305.