Education vies for funding down the road

by | March 4th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Education | Comments (0)

school-children-roadHow do you boost support for education in a year when the state faces a massive budget shortfall? Several bills to provide teacher pay raises have gained initial committee approval, but these bills are unlikely to make it into law given the grim budget situation. The best chance for success for education advocates seems to be a proposal by House Speaker Pro Tem Lee Denney (R-Cushing) that provides a multi-year $600 million increase in education funding, but not for another three years. Yet even this proposal is far from a sure thing.

HB 1682 creates the Securing Education Excellence Fund. The bill is designed to increase funding for common education by $59.7 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2019. The funding increase would come from income tax revenue that is take off-the-top before legislators appropriate budgets for other state services.

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What Fallin’s goals for state government tell us about Oklahoma

by | February 24th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, Education, Healthcare | Comments (2)
Photo by House GOP

Photo by House GOP

During her 2015 State of the State Address, Governor Fallin announced a new state website that would identify measurable objectives for state government and track how Oklahoma is doing at reaching these objectives over time. The website looks at 160 metrics in five areas: Healthy Citizens & Strong Families; Safe Citizens & Secure Communities; Educated Citizens & Exemplary Schools; Prosperous Citizens & Thriving Economy; and Effective Services & Accountable Government. For each metric, the site shares a current statistic and a target to reach in the next few years. The site also describes some of what the state is doing to reach that target.

Fallin implied that the metrics would influence state budget decisions, saying, “Our goal is to change the paradigm when it comes to state agency management. Using OkStateStat, Oklahoma will become the first state in the nation to develop a comprehensive budgeting system that ties spending to measurable goals and outcomes.” That change in paradigm is yet to be seen in the Governor’s most recent budget proposal, which she released on the same day. The latest budget continues the pattern set by most previous budgets in her administration — flat funding or small increases to a few state agencies, across the board cuts to everything else.

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Priorities for Oklahoma lawmakers in 2015

Photo by Kool Cats Photography.

Photo by Kool Cats Photography.

Oklahoma’s 2015 Legislative session kicks off today with a State of the State address from Governor Mary Fallin. OK Policy and the Together Oklahoma coalition have identified six priorities for the coming session that are practical, politically achievable steps to move Oklahoma toward lasting, broad-based prosperity. Read on for brief summaries of our priorities and links to a fact sheet for each one, or click here for a 2-page summary of the six priorities. If you want to join the campaign to make any of these goals happen for Oklahoma, check here to see how you can get involved.

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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 (6)

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?

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