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However you count it, Oklahoma’s per pupil education funding is way down

by | October 20th, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (0)

Oklahoma’s investment in preK-12 education has plummeted in recent years. The state continues to rank worst in the nation for cuts to general school funding, according to a new report released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.

Oklahoma’s per pupil funding of the state aid formula for public schools has fallen 26.9 percent after inflation between FY 2008 and FY 2017. These continue to be the deepest cuts in the nation, and Oklahoma’s lead is growing. On a percentage basis, we’ve cut nearly twice as much as the next worst state, Alabama.

It’s the third straight year that this report has shown Oklahoma leading the nation in cuts to general school funding, but state lawmakers have still not made any meaningful efforts to reverse the cuts. The report finds that Oklahoma was one of 19 states that continued to cut state aid funding per pupil this year, even as the national economy recovers. Between FY 2016 and FY 2017, Oklahoma cut per pupil aid another 2.9 percent after inflation, the fourth deepest cut in the nation.

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Private school tax subsidy blurs the line between charitable gift and money laundering (Guest post: Carl Davis)

by | October 19th, 2016 | Posted in Education, Taxes | Comments (0)

Carl Davis is Research Director at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a non-profit, non-partisan research organization that works on federal, state, and local tax policy issues.

When is a charitable contribution not a “donation” at all?  If a taxpayer manages to turn a profit on the deal, has anything altruistic actually occurred?  The clear answer is no.  But a new report from my organization, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, reveals that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not always see it that way, at least with regard to certain state-subsidized “gifts” that Oklahomans are making to private K-12 scholarship funds.

Tax incentives for charitable giving are common in the United States.  More than 30 states, including Oklahoma, allow a write-off for charitable donations. For an Oklahoma taxpayer who claims itemized deductions, this state incentive can reduce the cost of giving by up to 5 percent.

One particular type of giving, however, enjoys a much more generous government subsidy.  In 2011, Oklahoma decided to supercharge its charitable donation incentive for contributions to private K-12 scholarship funds.  Donors who pledge to contribute for two consecutive years now receive a tax credit equal to 75 percent of the amount donated.  When combined with the state’s ordinary charitable deduction (a practice prohibited in most states with these types of credits, but allowed in Oklahoma), the end result is a program that reimburses donors for up to 80 percent of their contribution. That incentive is 16 times more generous than the 5 percent match the state offers on gifts to churches, food pantries, and other charities.

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Why Oklahoma teachers need a raise, in two charts

by | September 21st, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (8)

One of the most hotly debated State Questions that Oklahomans will decide this year is SQ 779. The measure would increase the sales tax to improve education funding — with most of the new funding dedicated to teacher raises. While opponents of the measure have criticized using a sales tax increase as the funding source, there is widespread, bipartisan agreement that Oklahoma teachers need a raise.

SQ 779 would require districts to provide a $5,000 raise for all Oklahoma teachers. It would also provide some additional funds that schools could use for performance pay or pay increases for the most highly demanded teacher positions. That $5,000 wouldn’t bring Oklahoma up to anywhere near the best states for teacher pay, but it would counteract the trend of falling pay since 2009.

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Mapped: The Oklahoma school districts with the most and least per pupil state aid

by | September 19th, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (1)

It’s well known that state aid funding in Oklahoma has struggled in recent years — since 2008 we’ve cut per student state aid by 24.2 percent after inflation, the largest drop in the U.S. Cuts to state aid affect all school districts in the state, but not all districts are affected equally. Because state aid to local districts is based on a formula that takes into account the needs of students and the local resources of districts to fund themselves, the amount per student that’s funded by the state varies widely between districts. In the 2015-2016 school year, aid went from a low of $16 to a high of $7,740 per student.

You can see the per student state aid funding for each Oklahoma school district in the map below. Click here to open an interactive map as its own tab and click here to download the data in Excel. The map reveals a couple of trends — the highest levels of per-student state aid tend to be found in districts in southeast Oklahoma, while the lowest state aid tends in be in northwest Oklahoma districts outside of the panhandle.

[Note: The map does not include charter schools, which tend to receive higher state aid because they have no local revenues. Charter school state aid can be found in the full data set.]

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Run for the Border: Education Outlaws in Oklahoma (Neglected Oklahoma)

by | September 8th, 2016 | Posted in Education, Neglected Oklahoma | Comments (2)

Camille Landry is a writer, activist, and social justice advocate who lives in Oklahoma City.  This post is part of our “Neglected Oklahoma” series, which tells the stories of Oklahomans in situations where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by.  These are real people and their stories are true (names have been changed to protect privacy).

When people think of crossing the border to find a better life, they usually imagine people from foreign countries who are not legally entitled to be in the United States. But there’s another kind of border violation that is very common: parents enrolling their children in higher-performing schools outside their district because their local schools are failing.

Brandon Brown is one such child. “I’ll be 11 in October,” he tells me. In answer to the standard grownup-talking-to-kids question, Brandon reveals, “I’m gonna be in third grade.”

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New research finds Tulsa Head Start program produces lasting gains (Guest Blog: Deborah Phillips and William Gormley)

by | September 1st, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Education, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Deborah Phillips is Professor of Psychology and William Gormley is Professor of Government and Public Policy at Georgetown University. Their Tulsa-based research on early childhood education has appeared in the top scientific journals in their fields, in national media outlets, and was mentioned in President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address.

In an era of high expectations of preschool education, new research finds that the Head Start program operated by Tulsa’s Community Action Program (CAP) has risen to the challenge.

Since the early 2000s, we have been following children who participate in Tulsa CAP Head Start and Tulsa Public School pre-K programs. We found that positive initial effects of the program on participants’ readiness for kindergarten persist into middle school in the form of higher math achievement test scores, less grade retention, and less chronic absenteeism as compared to children of the same age and backgrounds who did not participate in CAP Head start or in the Tulsa Public Schools pre-K program in 2005-06 when the study began. These results were strongest for girls, white and Hispanic children, and English Language Learners.

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New federal education law could change how we fund high-poverty schools

by | August 29th, 2016 | Posted in Education | Comments (4)

Kylie Thomas was an OK Policy summer intern. She is a Master’s student in economics at American University and previously earned her Bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Tulsa.

When the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) passed in December, Congress changed the language to a key requirement of Title I, the federal program that is the primary source of federal funds for public schools. Title I funding goes to schools that include a large number or high percentage of “disadvantaged” students, meaning students in low-income families, foster homes, or who have been abused or neglected. The key change made by ESSA affects the safeguards meant to ensure that federal dollars add to rather than replace state and local funds (commonly known as “supplement, not supplant”).

Prior to ESSA, districts could show compliance by proving they use Title I funds to provide students with services they would not have been able to receive otherwise. ESSA eliminated this language but did not replace it with new language to specify how to determine compliance. Instead, the U.S. Department of Education was required to enter into a process of negotiated rulemaking to write new regulations for supplement, not supplant. The regulations drafted by the Department earlier this spring would require state and local funds per student in Title I schools to be at least equal to the average amount of state and local funds in non-Title I schools. However, negotiators were unable to reach a consensus on the drafted regulations. As a result, the Department will now rewrite the new regulations on its own.

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Celebrating big progress toward hunger-free schools

Late this summer, just as parents started to wonder precisely where they’d put that school supplies list, Tulsa Public Schools announced that all elementary schools in the district would serve free breakfast and lunch to all students in the coming school year. Tulsa is able to provide these meals using federal funding through the Community Eligibility Provision, or CEP

This is great news for Tulsa Public Schools and kids. Community Eligibility Provision drives down administrative burdens, better equips kids to learn, and ends the stigma sometimes attached to free school meals. Participation has so far been very low in Oklahoma, but bringing in TPS’s 24,000 elementary students will increase the number of students participating in Oklahoma in the 2016-2017 school year by more than one-third, from 66,000 to 90,000.

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New report looks into why state education systems are falling behind the world (Capitol Updates)

by | August 19th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (0)


Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

There’s a published story last week by eCapitol reporter Christie Southern about an education study released by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). The 2-year study of education in various countries by a bipartisan panel of legislators and staff from 28 states alarmingly finds that “according to the latest data, out of the 65 countries, the U.S. placed 24th in reading, 36th in math and 28th in science. Another report, which looked at millennials in the workplace, placed the U.S. last in problem solving, according to NCSL.”

NCSL is a bipartisan national organization of state legislators and legislative staff that exists to help states develop sound governing policies by providing information and ideas through research and discussion. One of the members of the panel studying education was our own Sen. John Ford (R-Bartlesville), Chair of the Senate Education Committee for the past several years.

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‘Robbing Peter to pay Peter’ (Capitol Updates)

by | August 12th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (0)

robberSteve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

An interesting debate has developed on whether the $140.8 million that was withheld from state services in FY-16 should now be viewed as “one-time” money if it is spent on a teacher pay raise as suggested by the governor. Those opposed to Governor Fallin’s proposal for a special session have called it one-time money. The governor says it is not one-time money because the revenue was actually received last year, and there’s no reason to assume the $140.8 million will not come in again this year. It was impounded last year because the Director of OMES determined the action would be prudent to protect against overspending. The governor says if the money is re-allocated to a teacher pay raise a new $140.8 million will be available to continue the pay raise when it is received in the following year.

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