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Lawmakers Hear Presentations On State Education Funding Levels

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Oklahoma educators and other local community members told lawmakers Tuesday they want to send a message to Congress to fully fund a federal program that provides impact aid to Oklahoma schools.

The group voiced their concerns before the House Appropriations and Budget subcommittee on Common Education at the request of Rep. Dan Fisher, R-El Reno.

The discussion came as the House Appropriations and Budget Subcommittee on Common Education considered Interim Study 14H-004, which was combined with Interim Study 14H-089, to address education funding for per pupil spending and adequate resources for classroom.

The impact aid program, initially created in the 1950s, provides a percentage of aid to Oklahoma school districts that have had property lands seized by the federal government or Native American tribes.

Ray Henson, executive director of the National Council of Impacted Schools, said Tuesday the program is essential to the survival of many Oklahoma school districts affected but severe cuts to the program since the 1980s have depleted program funding by half.

The U.S. Congress has decreased funding for this program that reimburses school systems for land in their district that is used by the federal government or owned by Tribal governments.

Despite the increase in funding to public schools in the last Oklahoma legislature, the amount available to school districts on a per-pupil basis has decreased about 10% since 2008. Combined with a teacher shortage in the public schools and an increased number of students attending public schools, many districts feel a critical pinch in the quality of their services.

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