In a recent press release, Sen. Kyle Loveless (R-Oklahoma City) made some claims about how much Oklahoma might be able to improve teacher salaries through school consolidation. He said, “The state of Oregon has the exact same population as Oklahoma but more students and yet has only 200 school districts. I don’t find it a coincidence that their average teacher pay is $12,000 more than Oklahoma’s.”
Sen. Loveless is right that it’s not a coincidence, but he’s missed the mark on the reason why.
First of all, Oregon doesn’t have more students than Oklahoma. This year’s Fall enrollment in Oregon K-12 public schools was 567,098 students. That’s more than 114,000 fewer students than the 681,578 enrolled in Oklahoma.
Second, even with so many fewer students Oregon provides more funding for education. The most recent Census data shows that in fiscal year 2012 Oregon spent $5.54 billion dollars on K-12 public schools, about 10 percent more than the $5.02 billion spent in Oklahoma (these numbers include all state, federal, and local funding). On a per pupil basis, that means Oregon spent a full 27 percent more than Oklahoma. Oregon even spent more per pupil on administration ($731 in Oregon, compared to $664 in Oklahoma).
As we’ve explained before, there’s simply not enough money to be found in cutting administration to significantly improve Oklahoma’s rankings for spending on instruction. Voluntary consolidation of some districts could make sense — indeed, it’s already happening. But Sen. Loveless and other legislators who try to claim school consolidation is an alternative to increasing overall funding do not pass the fact check.