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State Department of Education Asks Oklahoma Lawmakers for $220M Increase

State Department of Education

The Oklahoma State Department of Education is seeking a $3.3 billion budget in fiscal year 2021.

That would be $220 million more than this year, a 7% increase.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said almost $118 million of that would go into the funding formula.

"We’ve seen important investment in teacher salary and compensation, and we want to steer our focus this year on those operational dollars that support students in classrooms and provide for additional teachers," Hofmeister said.

Another $19 million of the requested increase would go toward hiring a first wave of additional school counselors. Hofmeister said Oklahoma public schools need about 1,100 over the next three years.

"We have many students that are experiencing trauma in their lives currently or in the past and have need for counselors. Those would be licensed professional counselors. But we also need our academic counselors in schools," Hofmeister said.

The education department has been one of few agencies to request a budget increase from lawmakers, who will likely have little if any more money to appropriate next year. Hofmeister said it's her duty to present students' needs, and lawmakers are obligated to maintain a public education system for all students.

"That is not something that is shaped or managed in that request based on the context of economic conditions," Hofmeister said.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.