Okla. lawmakers pass education budget, including grant application guidelines
Okla. lawmakers pass education budget, including federal grant application guidelines
Oklahoma flags flying at the State Capitol (Photo by: Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Lawmakers in the Oklahoma House worried about the state missing out on federal education dollars passed a measure on Friday aiming to make sure that doesn’t happen as part of the budget for the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
This follows concerns from certain lawmakers that the education department wasn’t applying for certain federal grants.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters (R) pushed back on those claims, however, saying those accusations were lies on Thursday.
Rep. John Waldron (D) supported the new measure that directs the department to apply for any federal grant funding it received before Fiscal Year 2023.
If the department doesn’t want to apply for certain grants in that category, both the House Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tempore have to approve that decision.
“We have real cause for concern. If we… end up down hundreds of millions of federal dollars that might go to programs like school security, transportation, special education, or school lunches, then the districts are going to have to make that up,” shared Rep. Waldron.
Rep. Mark Lepak (R-Claremore) voted against the measure. He explained that he shares concerns over making sure schools get needed funding — but thought the proposal was the wrong direction.
According to Rep. Lepak, “Constitutional issues aside, seems to be, we don’t care what’s been applied for in the past. Keep applying for it.”
Some drama broke out on the Oklahoma House floor on Friday after Rep. Mark McBride (R-Moore) asked the Claremore Republican if his concerns had to do with Rep. Lepak’s daughter being on the State Board of Education.
Rep. Lepak denied that had anything to do with his stance, —and explained his position in further detail to FOX 25.
“We’ve set up two members of the legislature, the Pro Tem of the senate and the Speaker, in that clause, as essentially having veto power over the entire department and the state superintendent, who’s a statewide, constitutionally-elected statewide official,” he explained.
He also raised concerns over strings attached to federal grant dollars.
Superintendent Walters previously stated that he would reject federal funding that goes against Oklahoma values.
Rep. Waldron asserted that, “There’s nothing woke about a school lunch program, and kids deserve a chance to eat when they come to school. If we’re going to end up denying them these kind of federal supports, somebody has to answer for that.”
The $5.65 billion education budget forms a part of the $12.8 billion total that lawmakers appropriated for the state’s budget.
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