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Politics Bottles Up Special Payments in Okla.

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Some growing Oklahoma school districts have not hired new teachers they need or have made budget cuts because the Governor and the state legislature could not agree on doling out special payments for the districts.

For the first time since 1972, districts with growing enrollments did not get even partial payment of what is known as a "midterm adjustment" according to the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. The loss affects more than a third of the state's 550 school districts--some 205 districts with a total of more than 230,000 students.

The money is supposed to go to districts to make up for expenses not covered by normal state-aid payments, which are based on past student attendance.

The midterm payments, which were expected to total about $6 million statewide, were not made in the fiscal year that ended June 30 because of disagreements about which pot of state funds the money should come from.

Leaders of the Democrat-controlled legislature wanted to make the payments out of the state's "rainy day" fund. But Republican legislators and Gov. Frank Keating disagreed. The Governor, a Republican, wanted to use that money to help repair damage from the April bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. A special session to resolve the impasse is unlikely. (See Education Week, 6/21/95.)

Randall Raburn, the superintendent of the 15,300-student Edmond school district, said his district grew about 4 percent last year and could have used the anticipated $300,000 payment. Now, he said in an interview last month, officials will probably draw down the district's already-modest reserve funds, possibly endangering the school system's bond rating.

"We have to provide those services to those students regardless, and yet we really don't have any additional money for that," Mr. Raburn said.

--Millicent Lawton

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