In The Know: The Underfunding Of Public Education In Oklahoma

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

In The News

The Underfunding Of Public Education In Oklahoma: When it comes down to it, there is one thing that drove teachers to agree to walk out of their classrooms, superintendents to agree to shut down their schools, and lawmakers to agree to raise taxes: the underfunding of public education in Oklahoma. [News9] State Funding Crisis and the Teacher Walkout: Resources & Information [OK Policy]

‘Even As A Republican, We Had Gone Too Far’: Oklahoma Lawmaker On Tax Cuts: Oklahoma has done something many political watchers didn’t think was possible: the Republican-controlled legislature has approved a tax increase to give teachers a pay raise. Teachers in the state say they need more money, and they’ll stick to their planned walkout next week. The Department of Education is just one state agency that’s contending with a worsening budget crisis after years of tax cuts didn’t have the results state lawmakers were hoping for. [KGOU] The Cost of Tax Cuts in Oklahoma [OK Policy]

In Oklahoma schools, bosses are helping teachers go on strike: Earlier this month, Melissa Abdo visited a class of future schoolteachers — education majors at Oklahoma State University. “How many of you are considering teaching in Oklahoma?” she asked them. Of the roughly 20 students in the class, a single hand went into the air. “I don’t think Oklahoma wants me,” one student told Abdo, a board member for Jenks Public Schools in suburban Tulsa. [LA Times]

Teachers, state employees still plan to walk: The state’s largest school districts and a slew of public employees will maintain Monday’s walkout plans.The Oklahoma Legislature passed several bills this week, including a $400 million revenue package and pay raises for teachers, education support staff members and public employees. However, that revenue package raises significantly fewer taxes than those groups have requested, and the raises it pays for are also lower by thousands of dollars. [Journal Record] Lawmakers Pass Rare Tax Increase For Education, But Funding Falls Short Of Teachers’ Demands [StateImpact]

Lottery Only Marginally Helps Fund Education, Tax Policy Experts Say: As the legislature injects new money into education, primarily through teacher pay raises, many people still wonder: wasn’t the lottery supposed to fix the problem? It hasn’t and according to a tax policy expert, it never will. [NewsOn6] Why didn’t the lottery solve Oklahoma’s education funding problems? [OK Policy]

Educators face tough choice with Monday’s looming walkout after Gov. Fallin signs bill: Education groups face a tough choice regarding the teacher walkout’s future now that Gov. Mary Fallin has signed a measure officially adopting the largest pay increase in state history. But now, observers note that the teacher unions seem fractured and unsure of the best path forward ahead of their threatened walkout Monday. [CNHI] OEA continues call for Monday walkout after last-minute changes to school funding package [KTUL] As Oklahoma teachers plan to follow West Virginia in walkout, they confront a funding crisis that’s much worse [OK Policy]

Where would a $6,000 teacher raise put Oklahoma in regional, national ranking?: In 2016, the last year for which data is available, Oklahoma’s average teacher salary is reportedly $45,276, including fringe benefits. That puts the state, at No. 49, ahead of only South Dakota and Mississippi in the national ranking. A revenue package that could be signed by Gov. Mary Fallin would give Oklahoma’s teachers raises that on average would total about $6,100, making the new average teacher pay about $51,400. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma teachers’ real take home pay has shrunk for 10 out of the past 11 years [OK Policy]

Oklahomans pay some of the lowest taxes in the nation: The math doesn’t say Oklahoma is one of the highest taxed states; it says the opposite. When it comes to politics, everyone has an opinion, but when it comes to cold hard numbers, it’s very straightforward. [KTUL] Low- and middle-income Oklahomans pay highest state and local taxes [OK Policy]

The education tax compromise isn’t perfect, but it is a huge step forward: The tax package isn’t exactly what anyone wanted, and it isn’t enough to call the job done, but it is a giant step in the right direction. It’s also evidence that as stumbling and bumbling as it often is, and as constrained as it is by the state’s odd constitutional requirements, the Oklahoma Legislature can get things done … sometimes. [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World] Revenues bill is a good start and lawmakers can do more [OK Policy]

End the Oklahoma capital gains tax deduction: The Legislature has made drastic cuts to core programs and services, no program has gone untouched. Notably, state leaders have not taken a similar approach to economic incentive programs. It’s more important now than ever to carefully scrutinize incentive programs and eliminate those that fail to deliver measurable benefits. The capital gains tax deduction is among the largest incentive programs in the state, averaging over $100 million in lost tax revenues per year. [Cynthia Rogers/The Oklahoman] 2018 Policy Priority: End the Capital Gains Tax Break [OK Policy]

Retiring President David Boren warns that OU is ‘standing on the edge of a cliff’: “As I leave this job, I really feel good about the university’s strength,” Boren said last week. “I think we have the strongest faculty, strongest student body, strongest staff … the strongest possible position, but I think we’re standing on the edge of a cliff.” That cliff, he said, is the state’s declining financial support of public higher education and denial of the basic reality that, as Boren put it, “There is no free lunch.” [Tulsa World] Oklahoma already led the nation in cuts to K-12 education. Now we lead in cuts to higher ed too. [OK Policy]

Minorities are gaining more access to college in Oklahoma: Great progress has been made in the area of college access for minorities, Oklahoma’s secretary of education and workforce development said Wednesday. “The minority groups that are tracked, generally are almost up to the percentages of the general population,” Dave Lopez said during a meeting of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education. [The Oklahoman]

Low pay, big classes are the plight of Oklahoma teachers: For the superintendent of this city’s public schools, the signs that her teachers are struggling can be found everywhere. At a local restaurant, it was a teacher who served Deborah Gist recently. At the Reasor’s grocery, there’s sometimes a teacher behind the register. And then there was the Uber that the school district chief hailed to catch an early-morning flight — a teacher sat behind the wheel, trying to earn some money before heading to the classroom. [Washington Post]

Oklahoma’s teen birth rate still second-highest in U.S., but numbers are improving: Even as Oklahoma’s teen birth rate remained second-highest in the nation for the third year in a row in 2016, local stakeholders are keeping positive about the progress being made.The state’s rate of 33.4 births per 1,000 females ages 15-19 was second only to Arkansas, according to the Oklahoma Department of Health and the National Center for Health Statistics. However, from 2012 to 2016, the teen birth rate dropped by 29 percent. Since 1991, it has dropped by more than 52 percent. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma’s teen birth rate is near the highest in the country. We can do better. [OK Policy]

Students say they’re impacted most by school funding: As lawmakers, teachers, union leaders and special interest groups battle over tax increase bills to fund schools, the most impacted group of Oklahomans might be the nearly 700,000 students in the state’s public school system. [The Oklahoman]

TSET board approves $1.2 million grant to Department of Mental Health Services: The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will get an added funding boost thanks to a 3-year grant. The TSET Board of Directors approved a 3-year grant for up to $1.2 million for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services on Thursday. Organizers say the money will be used to help reduce tobacco use and improve health among the Oklahomans the agency serves. [KFOR]

Coburn and those opposing the education tax package are on the wrong side of history: Former Sen. Tom Coburn and a group of malcontents and zealots are planning an initiative petition challenge to the education tax increases that received final legislative approval Wednesday night. With a popular figurehead like Coburn and the potential support of Big Oil money, the group might be able to force a statewide vote on the tax package, which includes higher cigarette, fuel and gross production taxes. But they won’t win if good sense prevails. [Editorial Writers/Tulsa World]

More Oklahoma Families Turning To ‘Virtual’ Schools: Studies show many families choose virtual charter schools for many reasons but the number one motivation is bullying. The study, commissioned by the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, cited overcrowding, limited resources and problems with staff as other top reasons for switching. [News9] Why charter schools get an outsize share of mid-year State Aid funding [OK Policy]

Quote of the Day

“Politicians should be ashamed of themselves (when they) go around saying, ‘Yes, we need better education, yes we need better health care, yes we need other things in our state, we need better mental health, we need to invest.’ But they don’t want to pay for it. (They will) cut your taxes, because that’s popular to do. But we need to be telling the people the truth. … A business doesn’t have a future if it doesn’t invest in itself. A state doesn’t have a future if it doesn’t invest in itself,”

– David Boren, President of The University of Oklahoma (Source)

Number of the Day


Share of Oklahoma adults without a high school diploma or equivalency who report not having a personal doctor, versus 14.7% of those with a bachelor’s degree or greater

Source: State Health Access Data Assistance Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Despite Gains, Households of Color Face Ever-Accelerating Racial Wealth Gap: Federal Reserve data presented in Running in Place show that the wealth of Black and Latino households has actually improved since 2013. Look closer, though, and the gains are far from rosy: the wealth gains made by Black and Latino households since 2013 pale in comparison with the leaps that median White household wealth made over the same period [Prosperity Now].

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Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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