Oklahoma leads nation in deepest cuts to school funding for third straight year (Tulsa World)

By Andrea Eger

A comparison by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows Oklahoma leads the nation for the third straight year in cuts to the primary source of state funding for public schools.

After adjusting for inflation, analysts found that Oklahoma’s state aid to schools is 26.9 percent less for the current fiscal year than it was in 2008 — and that the margin between Oklahoma and the second-worst Alabama has nearly doubled in the past year to 12.7 percentage points.

“However you count it, Oklahoma’s per-pupil funding for education is way down,” said Gene Perry, policy director for the Oklahoma Policy Institute. “Unfortunately we haven’t seen any meaningful response from state lawmakers to reverse these cuts, and in fact they’ve cut even deeper.”

Most states raised general funding per student this year, but 19 states including Oklahoma imposed further cuts. Also on that list were six others of the 10 deepest-cutting states since the recession hit: Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and West Virginia.

The non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities works at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income individuals and families.

Its annual adjusted-for-inflation report states that Oklahoma’s 2.9 percent cut in state aid between fiscal years 2016 and 2017 was the fourth deepest cut in the nation in the past year.

Twenty-eight states raised general funding per student in 2017, after adjusting for inflation, compared to 35 states in 2016. Leading the United States in per-pupil increases are South Dakota at 24 percent, South Carolina at 7.4 percent, Illinois at 5.7 percent, New York at 4.3 percent and Tennessee at 3.4 percent.

The report authors noted that all of the calculations for Oklahoma were adjusted to include the $25.6 million in state aid recently returned to the Oklahoma State Department of Education for distribution to school sites because state finance officials had cut too much to cover midyear shortfalls in FY2016.

In Oklahoma, state aid to local schools comprises dollars from six sources: the General Revenue Fund; the Common Education Technology Revolving Fund; Education Reform Revolving Fund, commonly referred to as the 1017 fund; Mineral Leasing Fund; Oklahoma Lottery Trust Fund; and Constitutional Reserve Fund, which is also known as the Rainy Day Fund.

Earlier this month, the latest national comparison of per-student spending rates by the National Center for Education Statistics found that Oklahoma’s annual expenditures now trail the regional average by nearly $1.4 billion — $100 million more than the gap the previous year.


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