By Emily Wendler
Oklahoma leads the nation in cuts to per-pupil funding for the third straight year.
According to a new national comparison conducted by the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities, the amount of money the state spends through the funding formula on each student’s education has dropped by nearly 27 percent since 2008.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a nonpartisan policy research organization based in Washington, D.C.
A KOSU analysis shows the legislature appropriated about $2.5 billion to the State Department of Education in 2008, and $105 million less than that in 2015-2016. However the state has gained nearly 48,000 new students since 2008.
Alabama had the second largest decrease in state per-pupil funding since 2008, with a 14.2 percent reduction, followed by Kentucky, Kansas, and Arizona.
The report also shows that five of the eight states with the deepest cuts to education also cut income taxes. Those states include Oklahoma, Kansas, Arizona, Wisconsin, and North Carolina.
Most states raised general funding per student this year, but 19 states including Oklahoma imposed further cuts. Oklahoma’s per-pupil funding dropped 2.9 percent from last year.
Oklahoma schools also receive funding through local sources and the federal government. For the most part, schools get about 45 percent of their funding from state legislatures, 45 percent of their funding from local sources such as property taxes, and then about another 10 percent comes from the federal government.
Oklahoma House Speaker, Jeff Hickman, told the Oklahoman that legislative leaders have worked hard to preserve funding levels for schools in the midst of an historic economic downturn driven by the energy sector. He said overall funding for schools in the state has increased.
“Further, total funding for Oklahoma schools from all sources reached $8.2 billion in Fiscal Year 2016, the highest figure in state history.”
Hickman questioned the validity of the report and said it did not take into account federal education funding and other sources, such as the state’s ad valorem reimbursement funds, motor vehicle taxes, gross production tax funds and record revenues from state land commission funds for schools.
However, Gene Perry of the Oklahoma Policy Institute told the Oklahoman that per-pupil funding is more the most honest way to view school finance.
“Per pupil levels are what translate to what matters the most to parents and students. The per pupil funding amount is how we fund our teachers and resources in the classroom.”