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Report: Oklahoma Leads The U.S. In Per-Pupil Education Cuts

classroom floor
Jacob McCleland

Oklahoma leads the nation in education cuts based on per pupil spending, and those cuts are nearly double those of the next-closest state.

A report out last week by the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows Oklahoma's per-pupil funding fell by nearly 27 percent between fiscal years 2008 and 2017.

“Cuts made to the Oklahoma Department of Education were greater than necessary to cover the fiscal year 2016 shortfall,” the report says. “To correct for this, the legislature returned roughly $25.5 million to the Oklahoma Department of Education for the financial support of public schools for that year. That adjustment is included in this report’s analysis for fiscal year 2016.”

The report also points out that while most states raised general funding this year, Oklahoma and 18 others imposed new cuts, even as the nation's economy improved. Oklahoma, Kansas, and North Carolina had already imposed some of the deepest cuts since the 2008 recession.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister agreed with the report’s findings, and said education funding hasn’t kept up with Oklahoma’s student growth, eCapitol’s Christie Southern reports:

"Oklahoma cannot allow our public education system to continue languishing without adequate funding. While it is true that state-appropriated dollars have increased, funding has failed to keep pace with an influx of more than 50,000 additional students," she said in a statement Thursday. "Along with these spikes in student growth, state-mandated coverage of health insurance costs for teachers has continued to escalate. Educators have worked diligently amid these budgetary challenges, but there are limits to what they can do without sufficient funding. Investment in our public education system reaps dividends that will be felt for generations to come." These sharp cuts in funding for schools are being felt in the classroom. Average teacher salaries have dropped more than $7,700 after inflation since 2009 as Oklahoma loses experienced teachers to other professions and other states with more competitive teacher pay, according to data from the Oklahoma Policy Institute. The state aid formula where Oklahoma made the deepest cuts is the most important source of general operations revenue that schools use to pay teacher salaries and other basic expenses. The state aid formula is not the only source of revenue for schools. However, the report finds that Oklahoma is still among the worst states for cuts to total state funding and combined state and local funding.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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