School districts across the state will watch closely the outcome of today’s state board of education meeting which calls for action that would cut the school activities fund proposed by State Superintendent Janet Barresi.
Last week, the Oklahoma State Department of Education announced the agency had not received supplemental appropriations for teachers’ health insurance premiums, known as the Flexible Benefit Allowance.
To cover that shortfall, Barresi had directed $6.54 million budgeted for a variety of school activities to be used to cover the health insurance premiums for school employees.
At Tuesday night’s Ardmore Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Sonny Bates and Kelly Shannon, director of finance, addressed how the district stands to lose funding for alternative education, the Oklahoma Parents as Teachers program and professional development pending action from the state board.
Currently, the district has received 75 percent of the allocations in those three categories. The district has not yet received more than $53,000 in funds already promised for alternative education, the Oklahoma Parents as Teachers parenting program and professional development, according to budget documents from the meeting.
Bates said the district received a memo from the state agency about the action pending final approval by the state board of education, set to meet today.
“Up until the last two weeks, we have not been fully funded as far as flex (Flexible Benefit Allowance) goes,” Bates said.
The Flexible Benefit Allowance provides funding to districts to cover insurance costs of eligible certified and support personnel.
In a statement released by the state department of education, Barresi said school districts have the budgetary flexibility to move dollars to alternative education, the Oklahoma Parents as Teachers programs and professional development.
“This action effectively depletes available funds left in the schools’ activities fund for the current fiscal year, but we must take care of our teachers,” Barresi said. “On top of everything else, our school districts must cover health insurance for their full-time employees. These increased costs, which are in part a consequence of Obamacare, needed to be addressed.”
The Ardmore City Schools’ budget notes the promised funds for alternative education, the Oklahoma Parents as Teachers program and professional development as not yet received. The district waits for the state agency to issue a percentage cut for the three categories.
Shannon said she was told to anticipate a 7.42 percent cut to the programs after speaking with a representative of the state department of education.
“It is moving money from one place to another to be compliant, but leaving all districts in the state short on addressing students in alternative education, Oklahoma Parents as Teachers programs and others,” Bates said. “Adjustments are being made; I think we will overcome.”