Budget chair: State superintendent did not ‘help on anything—period’

Budget & Tax , Education

Ray Carter | May 12, 2020

Budget chair: State superintendent did not ‘help on anything—period’

Ray Carter

The chair of the House committee that drafts the budget for Oklahoma’s K-12 school system said Tuesday that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister refused to provide meaningful assistance in this year’s budget process.

“I was very disappointed in Department of Education for not coming forth with more help on the limits bill, or more help on anything—period,” said Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore. “They’ve got their own agenda that they want to do.”

McBride made those comments while presenting House Bill 4153, which broadly designates how more than $2.9 billion will be spent in Oklahoma’s public-school system in the coming year. As chair of the House Appropriation and Budget Subcommittee on Education, McBride was a lead negotiator in drafting the legislation, commonly referred to as a “budget limits” bill.

McBride repeatedly criticized Hofmeister and the Department of Education, which the superintendent runs, saying she declined to play a helpful role in this year’s budget process.

“The Department of Ed wants to tell us what they think needs to be done, or not give us any information,” McBride said.

McBride was asked why HB 4153 included a line-item for a specific math program. He indicated the line-item became necessary because lawmakers were not confident the Department of Education would fund the program without an express requirement.

McBride said lawmakers have “tried to get” Hofmeister to put the math program “into her budget for several years without line-iteming it.”

He said the program was used by state schools during the administration of Hofmeister’s predecessor in office and “showed a great deal of success,” but had not been funded by the department in recent years. McBride said the program, had it been in place this year, would have aided in distance learning for Oklahoma students during the COVID-19 shutdown.

He noted many school districts have independently continued to use the program despite the Department of Education’s lack of support.

“We couldn’t get any cooperation from the Department of Education on this,” McBride said.

House Bill 4153 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 93-5 vote.

When asked for comment, Steffie Corcoran, director of communications at the Oklahoma State Department of Education responded, “We always endeavor to be responsive to and collaborative with lawmakers. We value this critical partnership and look forward to continuing to work together on behalf of more than 700,000 public school students in Oklahoma.”

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.

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