Contact: State Rep. Tom Gann
Office: (405) 557-7364
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Tom Gann today announced he has requested an interim study on the Commissioners of the Land Office, focusing on the calculations of how distribution of revenues are made to common education.
The request comes on the heels of House Bill 3440, authored by Gann, R-Inola. The bill required three things: money from the fund to be earmarked for teacher compensation, the money would be in addition to money already distributed to schools, and would be exempted from the school funding formula. The bill passed the Appropriations and Budget Committee but did not make it to the House floor for a vote due to a controversial and unofficial opinion issued by the state Attorney General.
“My bill, which asked for more revenue to be distributed and directed towards teacher compensation, drew so much interest by Oklahomans across the state,” Gann said. “It received backing by constitutional law experts and other lawmakers. The School Land Fund needs to be transparently managed.”
Gann pointed out that both the state Constitution and the Enabling Act specify the money from this fund is to be used for the benefit of public education. He said he is not asking the land office to do anything aside from their core mission, which is to support public schools. Nor is he asking the commission to touch its corpus, which is protected by both the state Constitution and the Enabling Act. Instead, he is focused on investment earnings of the fund and wants better transparency of how those funds are spent and distributed.
According to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the CLO’s total portfolio was almost $2.4 billion for 2017. Total program revenues were $322.8 million, compared to $87.6 million in 2016.
In 2017, the CLO distributed more than $143.6 million, $103.4 million to K-12 schools, the highest total in state history. The distribution is done according to the Average Daily Attendance of each school as provided by the state Department of Education. The CLO distributed more than $35.9 million to universities and colleges and $103.4 million for public buildings. This was an increase of $11 million from the apportionments of fiscal year 2016.
The state Constitution grants the CLO its authority to hold sections of land in each state township, granting property and oil and gas leasing rights for the sole purpose of supporting common education.