The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 8, 2013

Local school officials not thrilled with Mary Fallin’s State of the State address

Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Gov. Mary Fallin’s State of the State address didn’t have many people doing cartwheels.

In fact, it was kind of just there. It wasn’t an inspiring speech. It was pretty matter of fact and business-like.

In her speech, Fallin outlined her call for a cut in the state income tax of .25 percent, from 5.25 percent to 5 percent.

She also called for more changes to the state’s pensions that would reduce the unfunded liability of the major systems, an overhaul of the workers’ compensation system and an immediate boost in funding for repairs to the Capitol and teacher benefits.

Local school officials, though, were disappointed in what they heard from the governor.

Enid Public Schools Superintendent Shawn Hime, speaking at Monday’s school board meeting, clearly was not thrilled.

“I will tell you, it was about as depressing a State of the State address as I’ve heard in my years in education and in my years as an Oklahoma resident,” Hime said.

State funding, he said, is down $477 for each of the district’s 7,529 students.

The school district is gaining students, though, and thus garnering more money from the state.

But overall, collections and revenue for the district are “pretty flat, or might even be down for this year,” Hime said.

He also said the federal government awards money to states based on each state’s per-student spending, so a hit from the state means another hit from the federal government.

Fallin did propose a $13.5 million increase for the state Department of Education.

There are a lot of issues facing the state. We’re interested in seeing how Fallin leads, and how lawmakers work this session.