Governor Fallin wants to boost educational attainment. President Obama has a new plan to do it.

by | January 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Education | Comments (0)
Photo by Turner Photography.

Photo by Turner Photography.

Rosie Nelson is a former OK Policy intern and is currently a PhD student at the Stanford Graduate School of Education.

In the recent inaugural address for her second term, Governor Fallin said one of her top goals is to boost Oklahoma’s educational attainment. Now a new plan from President Obama provides a great opportunity to advance that goal.

Just after the New Year, President Obama unveiled his America’s College Promise proposal, which would provide a tuition waiver for two years of community college to all students attending at least half-time and maintaining a 2.5 GPA or higher. The program is modeled on the Tennessee Promise program, which was launched in 2014.

continue reading Governor Fallin wants to boost educational attainment. President Obama has a new plan to do it.

Higher Education: A sound investment towards Oklahoma’s economic prosperity (Guest Post: Michael Thomas)

by | January 20th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

MichaelThomasMichael Thomas is one of four 2014-2015 OK Policy Research Fellows. Michael is a Master’s student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program at Oklahoma State University. He works as a Graduate Research Assistant for the department of Graduate Studies, Outreach, and Research, focusing on the recruitment and retention of graduate students within the College of Education. He aspires to become a Professor of Higher Education Leadership and Policy.

The vitality of higher education is a fundamental and increasingly important determinant of a nation’s position in the world economy. Oklahoma is no stranger to this concept. In 2008, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education contracted with Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) to analyze the economic contribution of Oklahoma’s higher education system on the state’s economy. Examining current and future contributions of higher education through the development of a single-region, 70-sector Policy Insight Model, REMI demonstrated that by 2048, increased earnings from college graduates will contribute $8.825 billion annually to state disposable income. As a result, economic activity will increase, leading to more economic growth for the region.

continue reading Higher Education: A sound investment towards Oklahoma’s economic prosperity (Guest Post: Michael Thomas)

ABCs of School Finance (Guest Post: Lori Smith)

by | January 12th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education | Comments (0)

school finance - appleLori Smith is the Chief Financial Officer for Edmond Public Schools. This post is excerpted from an Edmond Public School brochure, “20 Questions (and Answers) about School Finance”.

What is State Aid?

State Aid represents the funds that are appropriated by the State Legislature for school districts, and distributed by the State Department of Education through the “State Aid Formula.” 

State Aid is based primarily on student counts, with allowances made for various student characteristics represented as grade and categorical weights.

State Aid uses the higher of the current or two previous years’ student counts. Thus, if a district’s student count increases, the State Aid is adjusted in the current year. If a district’s student count decreases, the State Aid does not decrease for two years.

The State Aid calculated using these student counts is then reduced for local revenue collections by subtracting “chargeables.”

continue reading ABCs of School Finance (Guest Post: Lori Smith)

The “C-word” debate ignites pre-session passions (Steve Lewis Capitol Update)

by | January 2nd, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Updates, Education | Comments (2)
Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis

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 sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Although many legislators like to wait until the deadline to file all their bills, a few House and Senate bills have already been filed for the 2015 session.  One interesting proposal is Senate Bill 15, the “Rural Education Empowerment Act,” filed by Senator Kyle Loveless, an Oklahoma City Republican serving his first term.  SB 15 provides that if the average daily membership of a school district falls below 250 students, the administrative functions of the district will be combined with those of a contiguous district when the current superintendent retires or otherwise departs. 

continue reading The “C-word” debate ignites pre-session passions (Steve Lewis Capitol Update)

Oklahoma school funding: Even worse than you thought (Guest post: Ryan Gentzler)

by | December 18th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (4)

Ryan Gentzler is an OK Policy Research Fellow, a Master of Public Administration student at the University of Oklahoma, and a Research Associate with the Early Childhood Education Institute.

In October, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published an update to its study of cuts to state aid to public K-12 schools since the recession, showing that Oklahoma has widened its lead in making the largest cuts in the nation. From 2008 to 2015, we’ve slashed state aid to schools by 23.6 percent, or $857 per student. But the situation is even worse than it appears at first glance. Oklahoma’s public schools are more dependent on state revenues than those in many other states. As a result, school funding in Oklahoma is more vulnerable to economic downturns and to fiscal decisions that erode the state’s revenue base.

continue reading Oklahoma school funding: Even worse than you thought (Guest post: Ryan Gentzler)

Supporting innovation in Oklahoma’s rural schools (Guest post: Sarah Julian)

by | December 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

rural schoolSarah Julian is the Director of Communications for the Oklahoma Public School Resource Center, a non-profit that provides support and resources to the state’s public schools.

Oklahoma’s public schools continue to face difficult financial challenges—this is neither new nor surprising. The state lags behind the nation in education funding, yet it currently allocates 50 percent of its budget to education. While efforts can and should be made to identify additional funding for Oklahoma’s public schools, it is incumbent on the state to also find ways to incentivize innovation in our public school system.

 In addition to the funding crisis, much attention has been given over the past few years to the difficulty American companies are experiencing in filling highly technical positions with qualified applicants. The numbers of graduates with knowledge in advanced levels of science, math and complex analysis just aren’t at the levels needed to support these companies’ requirements, and it puts them in the position of having to hire from an international pool.

continue reading Supporting innovation in Oklahoma’s rural schools (Guest post: Sarah Julian)

Should Oklahoma require a civics test to graduate high school?

by | December 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education, Elections | Comments (1)
Photo by the Town of Chapel Hill.

Photo by the Town of Chapel Hill.

This post is by OK Policy intern Dakota States. Dakota is a recent graduate of Oklahoma State University, where he studied political science, environmental sociology, and screen studies.

A common stereotype of high school civics is a teacher who’d rather be coaching reading directly off slides as he unenthusiastically tells students about the branches of government. Admittedly, that stereotype is unfair to many creative and talented social studies teachers in our state; however, it’s true that civics has not typically been given the same importance as other high school academic and social goals.

Students often leave high school with an incomplete understanding of how the social and political structures around them function. That may be why an Annenberg Public Policy Center survey found that 35 percent of Americans were not able to name a single branch of government and only 32 percent could correctly identify the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land.

continue reading Should Oklahoma require a civics test to graduate high school?

Education funding schemes no substitute for dealing with taxes

by | November 26th, 2014 | Posted in Budget, 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 sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

Steve Lewis

Steve Lewis

Sen. Brian Crain said this week he will introduce two $2.5 billion bond issues to generate funds for common and higher education.  The proposals would have to pass the legislature and a vote of the people.  Apparently the idea is to invest the borrowed money to earn enough to pay the interest on the bonds.  If there’s more earned than owed the money would go to education, and when the bonds are paid off all the earnings would go to education.

continue reading Education funding schemes no substitute for dealing with taxes

Oklahoma continues to lead U.S. for deepest cuts to education

by | October 16th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (1)

education-cutsLast year, Oklahoma had the dubious honor of having made the deepest cuts to school funding in the nation since the start of the recession in 2008. Now an update from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that our lead has widened. Adjusted for inflation, Oklahoma’s per student school formula funding has dropped 23.6 percent over the past six years, significantly more than in any other state.

Oklahoma is one of 20 states that continued to cut education funding this year, even as the economy recovers, leaving per student spending $857 below pre-recession levels after inflation. Although the Legislature and Governor Fallin provided a $41 million increase to the school funding formula in this year’s budget, it was not enough to keep up with inflation and rising enrollment. This year Oklahoma’s state aid funding per student dropped another $21 after inflation. Total state appropriations for the support of schools is $172 million below what it was in fiscal year 2008, even before accounting for inflation.

That may come as no surprise to anyone who’s been following what is happening in our schools. As Booker T. Washington High School teacher John Waldron wrote last week on our blog, schools have been left fighting with each other over too few resources, as class sizes increase and entire programs are eliminated. Oklahoma’s standards for class sizes and up-to-date textbooks were suspended when the recession hit. Since then lawmakers have repeatedly voted to suspend the standards because schools still can’t afford to meet them. Kids are using textbooks without covers or held together with duct tape. Schools began this academic year with more than 800 teacher vacancies statewide, and they’re still struggling to hire people because teachers can get much better pay in any of our neighboring states.

“At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, states should be investing more — not less — to ensure our kids get a strong education,” said Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and co-author of the report released today.

The Center’s full report can be found here.

The public education crunch goes from bad to worse (Guest Post: John Waldron)

by | October 10th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (9)

john waldronJohn Waldron is a high school history teacher at Booker T. Washington High School

There is a crisis in Oklahoma education. Here’s the view from the ground.

I teach at one of the finest high schools in Oklahoma – Booker T. Washington in Tulsa – and I have long been concerned about the effects of budget cuts on our programs. Since 2008 we have cut our staff approximately 20 percent, while adding 6-7 percent to the student population.

For me, this has meant larger class sizes. Prior to 2008, class loads were capped at 140 students per teacher. Typically, I had about 110 in my classes, which are generally upper-level history courses. Today, after six years of cuts, I have 147 students. To give you a sense of what that means, consider this: if I give an essay question to each student (something I believe is a critical part of an upper-level course) and spend five minutes on each essay, it takes over 13 hours to grade them. That’s about how much planning time I have in three weeks of school. It has also meant eliminating my elective classes to teach more survey courses. And, of course, 147 students means 147 names to memorize, and 147 sets of individual circumstances to respond to. You see the dilemma. How can we deliver quality instruction to every student, under increasingly stressed conditions? How can we make bricks without straw?

continue reading The public education crunch goes from bad to worse (Guest Post: John Waldron)