Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System, Oklahoma City, must be given $35 million that had been diverted in June by the Oklahoma Board of Education to education programs in the state, according to an opinion from state Attorney General Drew Edmondson.
The Oklahoma Legislature did not require the Board of Education to direct this year’s funds to the pension plan as it has in years past.
The opinion, issued Monday, stated that the Board of Education has “a statutory obligation to transfer appropriated money every year” to the retirement system as specified by the Oklahoma Legislature.
Officials at the $9.1 billion system requested an opinion from the attorney general in August, and James Wilbanks, executive director of the system, said at the time such an opinion would be legally binding.
“We realize the State Department of Education was trying to make the best of an incredibly difficult budget year,” Mr. Wilbanks said in a news release about the Edmonson decision. “But trying to balance their budget by ignoring the law and shorting the already financially imperiled OTRS was fiscally irresponsible. The state of Oklahoma has an obligation to its retired educators. I’m confident our legislators understand and support the decision of the attorney general that this money should come to OTRS. I’m anticipating the state department will rectify the situation.”
Neither Mr. Wilbanks nor a representative of the attorney general’s office could be reached for comment. Oklahoma Department of Education spokeswoman Shelly Hickman could not be reached for comment.