Study: Oklahoma Is Number 1 In Education Spending Cuts Since 2008 (News On 6)

by Emory Bryan

Oklahoma has earned a top ranking in education, by cutting more dollars from education since the recession than any other state.

A new study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities puts Oklahoma at number one on that list. The study focused on state funding: the dollars used directly in the classroom.

It found that while lots of states have made cuts, no state has cut more than Oklahoma.

Rheanna Harbin has four children in Tulsa Public Schools, so she’s got a lot at stake when it comes to investing in education. Seeing Oklahoma at the top of the list for education budget cuts didn’t make her happy.

“And they wonder why we’re doing poorly in testing and everything else, and why we can’t keep teachers,” Harbin said.

Teacher salaries are just one element. The cuts affect almost all school staffing and routine expenses. The cuts translate into larger classes with less individual attention.

The Oklahoma Policy Institute says the study illustrates the priorities of the legislature.

“Every state in the country almost has cut funding for schools, because of the recession, but Oklahoma, even though our economy did pretty well during the recession, we’ve cut more than anyone else. So you have to ask what the priorities are there,” said Gene Perry.

Oklahoma’s education spending has dropped by almost 23 percent since 2008. Kansas cut 16 percent, Missouri cut 3 percent, and Iowa spends 11 percent more. And North Dakota spends 27 percent more than before the recession.

In Oklahoma, the cut is $810 per student, per year.

For parents like Harbin, it’s hard to understand.

“I would like them to put the money back into our school, care more about our future, because our children learning is what’s important,” Harbin said.

The cuts have stopped in most states, but 15 states, including Oklahoma made new cuts in the last year. That comes on top of federal funding cuts, so that’s a double whammy for students and teachers.


Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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