School Funding Crisis
The new revenues signed by Governor Fallin will do little to address the schools' operational funding crisis. Much more new revenue will be needed after a decade of cuts.
In 2017-2018 91 of the state's 512 school districts were only having school four days each week. This bizarre situation developed as a marginal cost-cutting tool that morphed into a way to help retain teachers, especially in rural areas and districts near the state's southern border with Texas and eastern border with Arkansas.
The cost trade-off is not a good one. For example, Newcastle only saved $110,000 out of a $12 million budget by reducing 20% of its school days. That's only a savings of 0.9% for 1/5 fewer school days.
Education Week stated: "Nobody seriously argues that less time in school will increase student learning. The hundreds of four-day-week districts in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oklahoma, and Oregon are overwhelmingly rural districts, which, on average, fall below state means on student achievement, graduation rates, and college attendance . . . a doctoral dissertation from the University of Montana that analyzed results over several years reported a decline in achievement scores of students with four-day school weeks once the novelty wore off and good intentions eroded."
STILL A BILLION DOLLARS BELOW REGIONAL AVERAGE IN PER PUPIL SPENDING
Even with $480 million in increased state funding for schools, Oklahoma will still be a billion dollars short of the funding needed to reach the regional average in per pupil spending. Every neighboring state spent is still spending far more than Oklahoma to educate its children.
Over the past decade, Oklahoma slashed its per pupil funding far more than any other state. Adjusted for inflation, state funding is only 72% what it used to be.
The $480 million boost for 2018-2019 will finally begin to improve this, but it will take even more new funding to correct for the years of damage in larger classes, insufficient materials, and lost courses and programs.
In 2017-2018, our schools are only receiving 90% of the state funding from a decade ago, yet are serving over 50,000 more students.
The graph reflects yet another revenue failure in February 2018 which reduced school funding by another $22 million statewide.
Now the state is boosting its educational investment by $480 million in 2018-2019, which will dramatically improve this graph, but still not provide sufficient funding to help with class sizes, instructional supplies, or lost courses and programs.
Thousands of elective courses were disappearing across the state due to inadequate funding. Over a third of Oklahoma's high schools now do not offer even a single foreign language course.
Raising teacher salaries will not solve this problem. Only increased operational funding in future years will allow districts to hire more teachers to restore lost electives.
The only funding source until 2018-2019 that was growing with the increased enrollment was local property taxes. They rise about 2% per year, as they should do with increased population and thus increased school expenses. Federal revenues briefly surged after the Great Recession, but then fell back. It is the massive cuts in state formula funding which devastated our schools.
The additional new revenues for salaries are great, but little has been done about the lack of OPERATIONAL funding for schools.