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Fallin orders study of school, college consolidation benefits

Gov. Mary Fallin wants to find out how much money the state could save by consolidating college and public school district administration and other costs.

The governor issued executive orders on Tuesday directing the Oklahoma Board of Education and state superintendent of public instruction to compile a list by Sept. 1, 2018, of every public school district in the state that spends less than 60 percent of its budget on instructional costs. School districts designated for "administrative costs consolidation or annexation" are to be notified by July 1, 2019, with those districts required to submit plans by Jan. 1, 2020, outlining how savings might be attained by consolidating human resources, purchasing, accounting, technology, maintenance and other costs. Implementation of plans would begin in the 2020-21 school year.

"Oklahomans support additional dollars going into the classrooms, and we have to make sure those dollars make it there," Fallin said. "According to a 2014 report, Oklahoma ranked sixth among states in the percentage of funds spent on district administration. This is unacceptable."

The governor also issued an executive order directing Oklahoma's higher education chancellor and the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education to develop a plan for consolidating administrative costs of universities, colleges, centers and branch campuses by December 2018. The plan should be executed by December 2019. 

"The most important component of successful educational outcomes is an effective teacher in every classroom who has the instructional materials and technology needed to enhance student learning. It is important to send a greater percentage of taxpayer dollars to support classroom learning rather than non-instructive costs," Fallin said. "These two education reform directives will lead to better education outcomes and wiser use of existing resources. "We owe it to our taxpayers and students to be good stewards of their money."

In a third executive order, the governor called on state agencies to stop spending state money on "swag" and unnecessary promotional items, which she said could save the state up to $58 million a year. "Swag" items such as pens, cups, trophies, bumper stickers and book bags. A bill proposing to eliminate such items was introduced during the past special session, but failed to win final legislative approval.

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