Oklahoma schools unfunded mandate

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While schools in Southern Oklahoma are not eliminating teachers' jobs at this point, many of the smaller districts are first looking at cutting programs and extracurricular activities. Their hopes are that lawmakers come through with appropriations, and the won't have to cut either.

School administrators in Fox are no strangers to budget cuts. Superintendent James Miller says one of the hardest things he has ever had to so was in 2002, when he had to tell four certified teachers they would not be needed in 2003.

Four years later, the district was finally starting to rebuild its staff until they were hit with the latest unfunded mandate.

When lawmakers gave teachers a $3,000 pay raise last year, they left the schools to foot the bill for fixed costs like retirement benefits and Social Security. That cost Fox about $35,000, at the price of $500 per teacher.

The pay raise ran Ardmore and Durant more than $100,000 this year. Lone Grove and Madill forked over around $60,000.

Administrators had to pinch pennies or forget about purchasing new equipment or making repairs.

Unless conditions change soon some schools may have to look at cutting programs or activities.

Healdton administrators say they are on the verge; Fox has not reached that point yet.

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Senator Johnnie Crutchfield says the money will be there.

"We had money left on the table last year. The House would not agree to that. We see it as a commitment."

Representative Greg Piatt says there is support on his side as well. But the session is in full swing, and it hasn't happened yet.

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