State funding for education down $198 million since 2009, lawmakers are told
BY BARBARA HOBEROCK World Capitol Bureau
Thursday, October 04, 2012
10/04/12 at 10:29 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY - State appropriations to common education have been reduced by nearly $200 million since fiscal year 2009, lawmakers were told Wednesday.
As a result, educators are frustrated and feel common education is not a priority for lawmakers, said Jeff Mills, Oklahoma State School Boards Association executive director. He spoke before the Senate Education Committee, which is conducting an interim study on common education funding.
The study was requested by Republican Sens. John Ford of Bartlesville and Jim Halligan of Stillwater.
Mills said the looming education cuts amount to nearly $122 million - including revenue lost if two state questions on the November ballot are approved, potential federal reductions and unfunded mandates.
State Question 766 would ban the taxation of intangible personal property. It would result in $42 million in lost revenue for CareerTech and common education, Mills said.
State Question 758 would lower the cap on fair cash valuation increases on homestead and agricultural property to 3 percent from 5 percent. If passed, it jeopardizes growth revenue for schools and career technology centers, Mills said. He put the impact at $5.6 million.
Nearly 76 percent of the cuts made to the state appropriations budget since 2009 have hit common education, said Steven Crawford, executive director of Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration. And while legislative funding to education is on the decline, lawmakers are passing more mandates and not funding them, he said.
"Reforms are not free, and it is very frustrating," Mills said.
It would take about $198 million to return to fiscal year 2009 state-funding levels, Crawford said.
From fiscal year 2009 until fiscal year 2013, the state saw an increase of 22,000 students, Mills said.
Ford said other funding hasn't dropped.
"They are talking about just the state formula dollars," Ford said. "They are not talking about the local dollars or the federal dollars that help fund education."
Local funding and federal stimulus dollars to common education has increased, he said.
Daniel G. Thatcher, a policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures, said various studies manipulate numbers on school spending to achieve certain outcomes.
He said based on fiscal year 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data, per pupil spending nationally was $10,615. Oklahoma ranked 48th out of 51 states, spending $7,896, he said.
But when the figure was adjusted for comparable wages, the state fared better, spending $9,390 and ranking 41st out of 51.
When the figure included comparable wages and money the state spends on prekindergarten, Oklahoma ranked 29th out 51 states, spending $10,950, Thatcher said.
Ford said various studies are all over the map on how much the state spends per pupil.
"We are a state with limited resources and unlimited demands on those resources," Ford said. "Through the legislative process, we have to balance the funds we have available and all the needs for requests for those funds."
Original Print Headline: Education funding down about $200M
Barbara Hoberock 405-528-2465
Sixth-grader Kyler Newberry (center) scratches his head during science class at Remington Elementary School at the beginning of this school year. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World