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Oklahoma Gov. Stitt says education funding agreement is close, but Senate leader says not so fast

Oklahoma Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat and Gov. Kevin Stitt shake hands after the State of the State address on Feb. 6, 2023.
Abi Ruth Martin
Oklahoma Legislative Service Bureau
Oklahoma Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat and Gov. Kevin Stitt shake hands after the State of the State address on Feb. 6, 2023.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced in a Thursday press conference he felt the months-long legislative stalemate over education funding was coming to an end. But, Senate leaders say that’s not the case.

Describing the state of education funding negotiations, Stitt was upbeat.

"We are so, so close. We got the bones of a framework, and now the Speaker and the Pro Tem have their education chairs kind of fine-tuning and getting the last little details," Stitt said.

But despite the talks being mediated by former state Supreme Court Justice Steven Taylor and ending in an agreement, Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat says they’re even further away from a resolution than they were a day prior.

"Last night in this very room, the governor and Justice Taylor and the entourage that followed them came in a very celebratory mood to tell us that they were excited about the deal that was struck between the House negotiators and the Senate negotiators," Treat said. "Unfortunately, the House has come back today and wants to do some modifications to the agreement, and so we’re not where we thought we’d be today standing before you."

Treat said the Senate made several concessions to meet the big House priority of getting more funds to rural districts — like increasing the weights in the funding formula to have a bigger impact on rural schools, and more than doubling the proposed allocation to the Redbud Fund, which grants schools money for infrastructure projects.

Treat reiterated his call for public negotiations, saying Oklahomans deserve to know what’s on the table.

That's something Senate and House Democrats, who have repeatedly called for transparency in the state budgeting process, agree on.

"The dysfunction of this budget process, and specifically the education funding standoff, cheats 700,000 children in Oklahoma out of their future potential," said Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, earlier this week.

There are just two weeks left in the legislative session.

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Beth Wallis is StateImpact Oklahoma's education reporter.
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