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

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.

Learn More // Do More


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

33 thoughts on “Oklahoma continues to lead U.S. for deepest cuts to education

  1. State will spend 40,000 a year per prisoner and a few hundred dollars per kid in school .doesn’t make a lot of séance.

  2. How can Republicans even look parents and children in the face after cutting education so much they lead the Nation in cuts? What kind of representatives have the people of Oklahoma elected to lead our state that makes education such a low priority? Time for Oklahomans to wake up and realize that the Republican takeover of Oklahoma has been bad for our children and their education, mental health, healthcare, infrastructure and almost any other issue that is not a social issue which is always at the forefront with this group of hard right who have the governing sense of a gnat. Yet with all the cuts especially to education this Legislature and Governor cannot wait to have the tax cut kick in when we are already in the hole over $600M! This former Republican won’t vote for any Republican if you paid me today — GOP had already gone too far right for me but the very idea we are #1 in cuts to education ensures never again will I support the GOP and its candidates.

    1. I don’t think it has anything whatsoever to do with republican or democrat. Too many people worry about what party you are in. Maybe if people worried less about that and more about the education and the money going to it then we would have more money in it. But all I hear as a high school student is people fighting over parties and when there is so much of that then it crowds out the problem of money in education.

      1. dean, you need to get out more and study harder. democrats need to stand up more for their ideals, but republicans are at fault for cutting funding. my advice is to get out of there as soon as possible, after living there most of my life, i did. i am much happier and you will be too. look up other stats about the state, mental health, incarseration, teen pregnancy, poverty, smoking, obesity, etc. it is a miserable place, just the way the baptists like it.

        1. The fact that you people say “democratic people blah blah” or “republican people blah blah” is one of the main problems right now. ~NewGen

      2. Why must every issue immediately degenerate to the same old liberal-conservative BS? There are BOTH in the OK senate and house. Just look at it for the problem that it is and fix it. Write or Email your congressmen.

  3. What ever happened to all the education money that gambling and the lottery were going to provide????

    1. Now that is funny! Only thing that goes into education and keep in mind no one of authority can give your a figure on it is the state lottery. Texas just did away with their portion for education. It was a joke and was told that it was a joke then and it’s still a joke. If you want a lottery great, but just don’t do it “for the children”.

  4. To me this should be different because if you listen to the economists Oklahoma has ( had) one of the lowest unemployment over the last couple of years. But as a parent I feel it in hip national because we are expected to make up the difference in a lot of areas for the school shortage in funding.

    1. Yes we have low unemployment but we also are at the bottom of the wage scale…. when wages are this low it eventually topples everything. No tax base.

  5. seriously…. For real??? What up my Sooners?? As I defend sooner pride out here in the real world, I get hit with stuff like this?? I am a product of Oklahoma education. Screw the trolls, I’m pretty well equipped for the world. I feel for future generations ….

  6. It does have everything to do with politics!!! If the republican legislature had NOT given the big oil industries such humongous tax breaks, the state of Oklahoma would not be in the shape it is in right now. It’s not so much about un-employment or anything to that nature…It all boils down to the HUGE TAX CUTS TO THE RICH!!!! Do your research and you can figure out why our state is sooooo broke right now.

    1. Perhaps it is the fact that lower income residents don’t pay any taxes. They get all of their money back plus credits on top! I do not think it is wrong that the people who are successful get tax breaks. Why should people making $500k a year have to pay $250k a year in taxes while the ones making $25k a year pay very little or nothing at all? Flat Tax is the only fair answer, and would bring in more money for the government. There should be no breaks or credits for anybody.

      1. The entire problem was caused by Queen Mary being totally incompetent…..she drained the coffers in an effort to make our numbers look better and now it has caught up with her. Big oil, to whom she has always bowed down to, has let her down and she finds herself in a real pickle….school funding is the only place to get money. Our Queen Mary has turned to be more like Marie Antoinette.

      2. Oh yah Bob, says the guy who makes 500,000 a year. You really know about the poverty level wages here in Oklahoma.

        1. Kathryn, I don’t make anywhere close to 500k. I lived on 20-30k a year for a long time and have climbed the ladder to wages I would consider upper middle class. I have had years where I got all my taxes back and credits to boot, just like every other person would do….but that doesn’t mean I think it is fair. I don’t think it is right that we are are relying on the wealthy’s success to fill all of the gaps. I think everybody should do their part.

  7. Born & educated in Norman, OK, I love my home state. This saddens me where we stand on the totum pole. In Texas, it shows we are much better funded. Keep in mind the size of our state & the fact that we have have had Republican governors & leaders for several years now. I personally know some teachers in OK & they highly value & appreciate their positions as teachers; they give all they’ve got of their time & utmost concern, striving for each child to reach their greatest potiential. Oklahoma leaders, do your best to provide & make available the most & best resources you can for the sake of the Oklahoma children. Never underestimate the value of a good education….something that will stay with them for productive lives forever, always remembering with well deserved pride that nothing can ever take it away.

  8. Mary Fallin does not represent any republican I know of. She is a fake a$$ sell out and needs to get the hell out of Oklahoma before she completely ruins everything. Even though I work in pediatrics and I have heard she has already shut down a facility that was for medically fragile children down in southern Oklahoma and after a few months many of the children passed away. She is definitely doing that to my company right now that I work for. My kids education will not suffer any further, so if budget cuts are made too much this next month, I will be relocating with plenty of doctors and nurses that I know have already shut down and skipped state. Oklahoma is a sad place to live. She is a piece.

  9. The sad part is to look at the Career and Tech schools and their funding! They have AMAZING facilities, ZERO budget cuts and you could throw rocks around most of the buildings and not hit students, as there are so few students. Why? Check their budgets against their enrollments. This could be a great news story for a reporter to expose quite the scandal. The Oklahoma CareerTech system has 29 technology center districts located on 59 campuses. For example, the new and beautiful TulsaTech Owasso Campus is here, even with their fountain… http://tulsatech.edu/about/locations/owasso-campus/ How many students did they have enrolled in their 256,000 sq foot facility last year? All 6 (yes 6) campuses of TulsaTech only had 4,922 full time students enrolled. Wouldn’t that money be better spent on getting public schools the teachers and supplies that they need? Just sayin’…

  10. People of this State is so blind Mary Fallin is a she devil she is one of the reason and her party for all of these cuts. She isnt from OKLAHOMA she looks at our State as COUNTRY HICKS. You can bet your last dollar REPUBLICANS ARE Devils they only care about themselves.

  11. It is about politics, money and greed, and the elitist platform of the republican party IS your problem Oklahom. Look at your governor(s) – REPUBLICAN. Look at your senators – overwhelmingly REPUBLICAN. And look at your house representatives – overwhelmingly REPUBLICAN! You cant deny that, you fools! And you cant deny this fact, either, if you have half your brain working: the republican agenda has been, and continues to be to privatize everything, and that includes education, which results in depriving public schools of the resources they need to provide a good education to everyone. Wake up! The conservative agenda is NOT about abortion or guns, they hook you in on those issues,their agenda is to take your tax money, and get it funneling into their pockets, aka, private corporations, wall street, etc…. Wake up, Oklahoma, your hard earned tax money is being drained from you by ALEC written legislation, adopted by your elected republican politicians.

  12. Incoming Sec. of Education, Betsy DeVos, noted in 2001 along with her husband that, [School choice, they say, leads to “greater Kingdom gain.” The two also lament that public schools have “displaced” the Church as the center of communities, and they cite school choice as a way to reverse that troubling trend.] In other words, should it surprise anyone that people of this ilk want to provide poor funding to public schools to help displace these schools as centers of communities???

  13. On a national level we need to decide who we are and what we care about. Public education is a very difficult topic. So much has gone wrong for so many years. As a retired elementary school teacher I can promise you that poor and minority students are harder to teach for a variety of reasons and teachers are ‘graded’ on the progress of their classes and individial schools. I could go on and on but my main point is that public education is dead in the water at this time. We don’t want to educate everyone anymore. We have left the poor behind. Look at charter schools and the appointment of Betsy DeVoss. This is a final death blow to public education. Education dollars are now going to for profit schools that have little or no oversight. For profit schools mean that investors (or owners) need to make money on the backs of the students. Mary Fallon says that parents know what is best for their children. What a joke. I think that this whole mess is going to have to run its course and get obviously worse before it can even hope to get better.

  14. To Regina’s comment: I’ve noticed that the facilities are beautiful in Oklahoma. The public schools are clean and new and well maintained. A facilities vote for school improvement and maintenance just passed in the last election . There is such a disconnect between voters approving money for facilities and low teacher pay. I don’t know what to make of it. Voters want to support education, it would seem. Maybe because legislators control the budget for teacher pay and voters can only show support at the polls by supporting facilities?

  15. Are there updated figures for 2016 or 2017?
    We need that info to make our case this year.

  16. You reap what you vote for folks. This is what happens when you give tax cuts to the rich and corporations. If you had a progressive tax system your schools would be doing much better. Now the devil is in charge in DC and she isn’t going to help you out one bit.

  17. I grew up in Oklahoma at a time (several decades ago) when the schools were considered good. The picture seems to have changed dramatically. I wonder where the children of Oklahoma’s corporate managers, business owners and college professors attend school. Do they go to boarding schools out of state or do they go to private schools in state? Why would well-educated people want their children to go to public schools in a state that has systematically de-funded their educational system? (I heard recently on the news that some schools were open only four days a week. Are Oklahomans really willing to settle for 80% education for their children?) What is the long-term view of the properity and well-being of the citizens of the state? Poorly educated people are unlikely to be able to work in the highly technical careers that are needed in the future.

  18. Im sorry , but according to state tables, Oklahoma is already using 33.7 percent of the budget , and at this rate in five years they will be at 40% whats left for oklahoma ? health care ? immigrants ? and much more . How can one expect more ? I think the problem is in the way the money is being funneled …..

  19. The first thing that needs to be done is call for a total audit of education funding for the last 20 years. Then make some changes to the State constitution, one of which is to put all revenue designated for education in a lockbox so the legislature can’t use funding earmarked for education for other things, like the legislature giving themselves and their staff a raise.

    Get a State Question to raise the per capital student spend from $42 dollars per student to a level more in line with today’s economy. After 72 years, it is time to have that amount adjusted. It may require a phase-in of 5 years to reach the target amount. Include a provision to increase the per capita spend by no more than 3% per year and no less than 1% per year to keep pace with inflation. This would allow money from the Lottery Trust Fund to go to teacher and support staff salary increases.

    On allowed expenses for the Lottery Trust Fund, have a moratorium on #7, Endowed chairs for professors at institutions of higher education operated by the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education for a period of 10 years

    Article XI- State School and Lands
    Section XI-2 Permanent School Fund:…”The principal shall be deemed a trust fund held by the State, and shall forever remain inviolate. It may be increased, but shall never be diminished. The State shall reimburse said permanent school fund for all losses thereof which may in any manner occur, and no portion of said fund shall be diverted for any other use or purpose.”
    SECTION XI-3. Interest and income – Use and apportionment.
    The interest and income of the permanent school fund, the net income from the leasing of public lands which have been or may be granted by the United States to the State for the use and benefit of the common schools, together with any revenues derived from taxes authorized to be levied for such purposes, and any other sums which may be added thereto by law, shall be used and applied each year for the benefit of the common schools of the State, and shall be, for this purpose, apportioned among and between all the several common school districts of the State in proportion to the school population of the several districts, and no part of the fund shall ever be diverted from this purpose, or used for any other purpose than the support and maintenance of common schools for the equal benefit of all the people of the State.

    ARTICLE XIII – Education
    SECTION XIII-1a. Appropriation and allocation of funds for support of common schools.
    The Legislature shall, by appropriate legislation, raise and appropriate funds for the annual support of the common schools of the State to the extent of forty-two ($42.00) dollars per capita based on total state-wide enrollment for the preceding school year. Such moneys shall be allocated to the various school districts in the manner and by a distributing agency to be designated by the Legislature; provided that nothing herein shall be construed as limiting any particular school district to the per capita amount specified herein, but the amount of state funds to which any school district may be entitled shall be determined by the distributing agency upon terms and conditions specified by the Legislature, and provided further that such funds shall be in addition to apportionments from the permanent school fund created by Article XI, Section 2, hereof.
    Added by State Question No. 315, Initiative Petition No. 225, adopted at general election held on Nov. 5, 1946.

    SECTION X-41. Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund.
    B. Monies in the Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund shall only be expended for the following educational purposes and programs:
    1. Kindergarten through twelfth grade public education, including but not limited to compensation and benefits for public school teachers and support employees;
    2. Early childhood development programs;
    3. Tuition grants, loans and scholarships to citizens of this state to enable such citizens to attend colleges and universities
    located within this state which are accredited by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education or to attend institutions operated under the authority of the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education;
    4. Construction of educational facilities for elementary school districts, independent school districts, the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, and career and technology education;
    5. Capital outlay projects for elementary school districts, independent school districts, the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education, and career and technology education;
    6. Technology for public elementary school district, independent school district, state higher education, and career and technology education facilities;
    7. Endowed chairs for professors at institutions of higher education operated by the Oklahoma State System of Higher Education;
    8. Programs and personnel of the Oklahoma School for the Deaf and the Oklahoma School for the Blind;
    9. The School Consolidation and Assistance Fund; and
    10. The Teachers’ Retirement System Dedicated Revenue Revolving Fund.
    C. The Legislature shall appropriate funds from the Oklahoma Education Lottery Trust Fund only for the purposes specified in subsection B of this section. Even when the funds from the trust fund are used for these purposes, the Legislature shall not use funds from the trust fund to supplant or replace other state funds supporting common education, higher education, or career and technology education.

    Another option, albeit unpopular would be to consolidate the secondary school superintendent positions in the state. When a school that has less than 500 students pays their their superintendent more than a principal at a school with 500+ per class, that is not a wise use of funds. In lieu of consolidating schools, consolidate the superintendent positions and give that money back to the teachers of those schools in the form of salary increases.

  20. Funny how everyone has it figured out, yet no ones doing anything accept cheating kids out of an eduction. No teacher IN OUR DISTRICT HAS EVER SPENT A PENNY OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKET.I CAN GUARANTEE this. Now who can Legitimately show me a teacher Who’s taken a cut in their pay? Anyone? At all? Bingo you can’t. Teacher pay has always been low. I’m not saying I agree. But that’s the way it’s been throughout history. No one has EVER SAID if YOU WANT TO BE RICH, BE A TEACHER. LOL. IN fact, I recall hearing, “be a teacher only if youre an heir to a fortune” and guess what, it was STILL their career choice. Now Oklahoma children are paying the price for their bad choices and I get to quit my choice in the legal profession so I can be part of my neighborhood homeschooling group. As of yesterday, EPS lost some very pleasant and well behaved, smart students. We want our kids learning how to add and subtract, the debate comes naturally when you have the basics down pat. Actually, I’m looking forward to this. It should be a great experience. I’ll be vlogging and blogging this journey. And it’s going to be a exciting and interesting journeu… for all involved. We’re tired of sitting around, in the last month month our kids have been in a classroom dor 5or less days. Now, I know what the teachers want the teachers want the World to believe, I know more than half of what I see online, is bs. I did the number crunching myself. Oklahoma is the bottom of the barrel for the ‘cost of living‘ as well. What that means Is teachers aren’t bankrolling anywhere, but they haven’t been suffering as extensively as they’d like everyone to believe.
    You know, anyone can learn these fast facts. It’s really very simple. Nonetheless,
    Good luck to everyone I hope it works out they way y’all

  21. Plazzy, very interesting, your comments are. You obviously have the inside scoop to what educators go through on a day to day basis! Have you bothered to visit the inside of any inner-city schools by chance? I’m sure those teachers don’t spend a dime either! They probably have all the curriculum they need, and available supplies at their finger tips! Obviously I’m being a bit feciscious, but just because in the last THREE weeks your children have been in class for five days, don’t blame the rest of the world!
    You are playing the same game that you are accusing those teachers of playing, by not mentioning the fact that the fourth week ago was indeed spring break, and if you’re on a year round schedule- the last fourth and fifth weeks were spring break. So go ahead and play your little high faulting games, and act like you come from a place like “everyone else” when we all know you don’t!!!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.