Budget Shortfall in Oklahoma Schooling

Editor’s Note: This interview with Joy Hofmeister was a simulation interview for a class. None of the following quotes should be seen as direct quotes from the real Joy Hofmeister.

There are many questions needing answers involving the recent events with the Oklahoma State Education System. With the drastic changes that have taken place within the education system, there seems to be a panic within the Oklahoma economy.

Just last week, the Oklahoma Board of Education decided to cut the budget that Oklahoma schools receive, in preparation of this budget cut, the Board of Education, along with the Oklahoma Superintendent of Education, Joy Hofmeister have decided to use the “Rainy Day fund” in order to salvage the school systems. Specifically, is going to be used for advanced placement classes and testing, when it was originally intended for special funds such as new band uniforms, new exercise equipment, etc.

However, on March 23rd, 2016 the Board of Education made the decision to cut 208 teaching positions in the Oklahoma City area. With this change, most of the money taken from the Rainy Day fund is now going to the positions that have been endangered.

“We’re in a tough time right now,” said Hofmeister “But I have a positive outlook on it and I know that we’re not going to completely crash if we take the right steps.”

When asked what exactly the money from the Rainy Day fund was going to be used for, Hofmeister said, “Well the highest impact happened in the areas of teachers being cut…so the money is probably going to go most directly towards the positions that have been put in danger.”

Along with helping state institutions, the Rainy Day fund was also originally intended for emergency situations.  In fact, up to a fourth of this fund can be used in case of emergencies. Due to this very recent shortfall of money, the fund is now being used for such an occasion.  Even Governor Mary Fallin herself has declared this an emergency in an interview with KFOR News Channel.

The Board of Education has stated that they have requested $57 million dollars from the Rainy Day fund to be put towards public schools. Unfortunately, Governor Fallin was only able to receive $51 million for the schools.

When asked why there was such a big shortfall in the budget in the first place, Hofmeister said, “There’s been a build-up in the last few years of state funded organizations simply not receiving the revenue that they expected. And the Rainy Day fund is funded by state organizations exceedingly their expected revenue.”

It seems as if there’s more to this situation than what is originally seen. In a state schooling system where money seems to dominate the decisions made, rather than the well-being of the students, one beings to question the integrity of those in charge.

“I wish I could say that money was not as much of a focus as it is…” Hofmeister said “but in our economy as it’s failing slowly, it is something that we have to strongly consider.”

Unfortunately, these changes won’t just affect the students in the involved schools, but it will also affect both current and potential teachers, parents, along with other institutions. It seems as if there isn’t much hope for Oklahoma education right now, especially when Hofmeister says that, “This year looks more bleak than the previous.” Her honesty may come across as bitter and negative, but it’s at the heart of the situation where her focus lies.

In her closing statements, it’s reassuring to see that Hofmeister’s confidence in the education of Oklahoma schools is unwavering. Her tone is able to inspire confidence in others when she says, “There are large obstacles to get to…we can’t get to the future until the present is fixed first.”

Image: “Classroom” by Stabler Deptartment of Nursing York College of PA




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