The Oklahoma government is currently under fire because of its actions involving public education money for Tulsa. The state government moved exactly $10,144,171 dollars from education into another field. The problem is that money from the state lottery was used to fill the budget shortfall since the original education money had been moved into a different area of government. Under the Oklahoma constitution, the funds received from the state lottery are to be used only in addition to education funds rather than being a part of the original budget.
One of the major problems with this allocation of funds is that it goes against the state constitution, which states that “In order to ensure that the funds from the Oklahoma Lottery Education Fund are used to enhance and not supplant funding for education, the State Board of Equalization will examine and investigate appropriations from the trust fund each year.”
Through a ballot measure in 2004, the Oklahoma State Lottery Commission and the Lottery Trust Fund were created to both allow lottery companies to Oklahoma as well as create a trust fund for education funds from taxation. According to the Tulsa World, the current Oklahoma lottery makes around “54 to 70 million annually for the education trust fund.” This moneyn is normally in addition to the initial amount of education spending.
According to the state constitution, the state of Oklahoma is required to send the exact amount of money received due to the state lottery to the State Lottery Commission. The current problem is that Oklahoma lawmakers are now required by law to send the exact amount to the State Lottery Commission before they can work on the next year’s budget. Until the money is received, the state government is not able to create any new budgetary plans or options.
The State Lottery Commission is important because it helps provision the money into four separate areas. The first specific area is common education at 45 percent of the total profit. This includes items such as materials for K-12 schools as well as building funds for repairing or fixing school buildings that are needed. This also potentially includes teacher salaries. Another beneficiary at 45 percent is higher education, such as money for colleges and trade schools in Oklahoma. It can help provide things such as scholarships as well as money for the institutions.
Another potential five percent is given to the school consolidation fund. The school consolidation fund gives money to schools who accept new students from schools that have closed down voluntarily due to budgetary issues. The money in this fund is given to both the facilities that house the students as well as potential severance pay for the teachers whose jobs were lost in the closing of their schools. The final five percent is given to the teacher retirement system, which gives out money to retiring teachers in the Oklahoma public school system.
While it can be argued that Oklahoma is in the middle of a budget shortfall, funds that are specifically designed for one section of government need to be properly allocated. While this statement is true for all state divisions, the education department is extremely important. The Oklahoma educational system is currently under extreme amounts of stress because of issues such as teacher shortage and a lack of funds.
Because of these problems and the importance of education, it is extremely important that education receives the funds that have been allocated to it. Therefore, the government should be held accountable for these actions and money needs to be given to the right section.