LPS to receive small slice

Lawton_Lawton Public Schools (LPS) will receive just under 3% of a $287 million portion of Oklahoma's slice of the Federal stimulus program for education.  Under the plan, LPS will get just over $7 million.  It has many folks wondering why one of Oklahoma's largest school districts is to receive such a small chunk of the stimulus funding.  Is it as unfair as some people say?

According the student population, LPS is the seventh largest district in the state with just over 16,000 students.  However, Oklahoma City and Tulsa both have more than 40,000 students, and it should come as no surprise that they are projected to get a large portion of this stimulus money.

There is another factor that is driving down Lawton's share, and at a glance may be difficult to accept.  Lawton gets $7 million while Lawton and Oklahoma city each get more than $31 million.  "I hope that was a mistake on the figures because we really need to make sure more of the stimulus packages is infused into the areas that need it," said Representative Joe Dorman (D), Rush Springs.  "With what we're seeing with BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure), we've got to make sure the economy is taken care of, here, locally."  Representative Don Armes (R), Faxon, says southwest Oklahoma will need to fight for funding.  "There's more people - tax base - all these different reasons," he said.  "We have to fight every single day to make sure Lawton and southwest Oklahoma is even in the mix."

On this occasion, state lawmakers don't have anything to do with funding - it's the federal government's decision.  "It certainly needs to be broken down more realistically - making sure it goes to the population areas that need that assistance," said Dorman.  While Lawton, Oklahoma City, and Tulsa, make up a large portion of the state's total student population, among all of the small schools in Oklahoma this area is among the top ten in the country in number of school districts.

Each district is allocated stimulus money - which quickly will add up - but a lot of folks feel like Lawton still is getting a bad deal.  "We're not just country bumpkins out here," said Armes.  "We've got a lot of diversity, and a lot of people who are culturally diverse.  We're just kind of a cosmopolitan area, and I think we need to make sure the rest of the state realizes that."

Since this is federal money, it is earmarked for two programs:  Title I, focusing on reading and math in high poverty areas, and special education.  The funding must be used for those areas under Federal guidelines.

Oklahoma is expecting another $500 million for education for the stimulus, and state officials say the money will be allocated by Governor Henry's office.  He also will have to follow federal guidelines.