Record-breaking education funding

Governor Mary Fallin and Secretary of the Commissioners of the Land Office Harry Birdwell today announced a record-setting year for the money provided by the CLO to K-12 schools, colleges and universities.

The agency is expecting to distribute a total of $124 million to schools over the course of fiscal year 2011, the largest annual distribution to schools in state history and over $10 million more than was distributed in FY 2010. As of now, the CLO has distributed $112 million to education, including $84.9 million to common education, and is expected to distribute another $12 million total by the end of the fiscal year in June.   

In addition, CLO officials report that all indications point to another record disbursement year in fiscal year 2012 if state oil and gas drilling activities continue at a strong pace. CLO distributions continue to climb, with education distributions reaching $82.6 million in FY 2009, $114.3 million in FY2010 and a projected total of at least $124 million in FY 2011.

“With the recession leaving Oklahoma with a $500 million budget shortfall, every dollar is important,” Fallin said. “We’re extremely pleased to be able to direct a record-setting amount of money from the CLO towards education, especially during these tough times. These dollars come without any mandates and will provide our schools and universities with another flexible source of funding to help deal with the budget cuts they are currently facing.”

Created at statehood, the CLO controls 1.3 million mineral acres, approximately 750,000 acres of land and a $1.8 billion trust fund.  Monies from oil and gas exploration and land leases on CLO-controlled property and dividends from investments made by the trust fund are distributed monthly by the CLO to state schools.

Under the state budget agreement reached last week, common education would receive a funding decrease of 4.1 percent and higher education would receive a funding decrease of 5.8 percent. Legislative approval of proposed education supplemental appropriations would put common education’s funding decrease at about 3.8 percent and higher education’s funding decrease at about 4.8 percent.

The CLO disbursements will further offset those funding reductions.

“The record-setting distributions by the CLO are wonderful developments because they will help lessen education budget cuts for the upcoming fiscal year,” said House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. “Oklahoma’s school funding formula works by combining state dollars, federal dollars, county property tax dollars and other funding sources like the money distributed by the CLO, which this year has proven to be a major blessing.”

“The CLO resources that will be directed to supplement education funding comes as great news to us all,” said President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman.  “This is an example of education funding that comes outside of the appropriations process and I am thankful education has access to these additional resources.”

“While education may be getting a little less from its state appropriation this year, the numbers clearly show education has been and will likely continue receiving more money than ever from the CLO,” said Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, chairman of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. “This is simply tremendous news for education in Oklahoma.”

Local school boards and higher education institutions decide how to use CLO money.

“I am thrilled this record-breaking amount of money is available to help education officials continue providing quality education for our students,” said Sen. David Myers, R-Ponca City, chairman of the Senate Appropriations and Budget Committee. “Education in Oklahoma has several strong funding sources outside of general state appropriations, including CLO money. One of the great things about CLO money is local districts and higher education institutions can use the money however they see fit.”