A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that Oklahoma has made the deepest cuts to school funding in the nation since the start of the recession. The report is a follow-up of last year’s study that showed Oklahoma’s per pupil spending cuts were third highest in the nation.
Per student funding of Oklahoma’s K-12 education formula is down by 22.8 percent since 2008, according to the report. The percentage cut in Oklahoma is the largest of any state. It works out to a decrease of $810 per student, adjusted for inflation.
Even though the state’s economy has emerged from the recession, per student funding continues to drop. In the most recent fiscal year, funding fell another 1.2 percent, or $33 per student. Though total state funding increased slightly for FY 2014, it was not even enough to cover rising enrollment and increased costs due to inflation.
Total state appropriations for common education have fallen by $220 million since FY 2008. Results of these cuts have included rising class sizes, eliminated electives and advanced classes, and reduced funding for remediation programs to help students who are struggling to pass state-mandated tests. The report’s authors pointed out that reducing investment in schools also has long-term economic consequences.
“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.
At least 34 states are providing less funding per student for the 2013-14 school year than they did before the recession hit. Besides Oklahoma, the deepest cuts have occurred in Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, and Idaho. Fourteen states have increased school funding since the recession. North Dakota had the largest increase (27.2 percent), followed by Iowa, Connecticut, Wyoming, and Maryland.