Below is the transcript from State Supt. Barresi's weekly radio message from June 24, 2011. The audio file is attached below.
Hello and welcome to my regular video message.
I’m Janet Barresi, Oklahoma’s state superintendent of public instruction.
This week, I wanted to talk about the state budget for education. This is the third year in a row that Oklahoma has faced a major state budget shortfall.
It’s a new normal.
We must work smarter with less, we must be wise stewards of taxpayers’ money and we must operate our state’s education system in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
Above all, we have to focus on those things that place students’ needs first and foremost.
On June 23, the State Board of Education approved details of the more than $401 million budget for school activities and programs.
When we found out that we would be working with a nearly $100 million cut this year, it became clear we would be operating under serious constraints and that difficult decisions would have to be made.
So our first priority was to focus on core areas of student learning and achievement.
Our next priority was to honor the state’s commitment to fully fund teachers’ retirement and health benefits for teachers and school employees.
Meeting our obligation to fully fund teachers retirement and flexible benefits alone amounts to more than $330 million dollars.
That doesn’t leave much room for other programs. So we have concentrated on those things that will have the biggest impact on kids in the classroom.
In this year’s budget, we focused on activities and programs that will support instruction, particularly in the areas of reading, rigorous coursework and helping students meet graduation requirements.
For programs that were cut, it’s in no way a reflection on their worthiness. Rather, it’s simply the reality of a very difficult budget situation.
In the future, for those sorts of programs, we’ll be looking ahead to opportunities for continued private-public partnerships as well as opportunities for volunteerism throughout the state.
Time and again, Oklahomans ask me, “How can I help?” So we’re working on ways that every Oklahoman can contribute to make sure that every child in our state has the chance to succeed.
Thanks for watching and I’ll see you soon for another video message.