Oklahoma lawmakers may have improved state funding for public schools more than any other state in the country in 2018, but according to a new national comparison, only Texas is worse when it comes to stacking up current state aid levels against those provided before recession struck a decade ago.
After adjusting for inflation, analysts found that Oklahoma’s state aid to schools is still 15 percent less for the current fiscal year than it was in 2008, despite the fact that lawmakers increased state aid funding per student by 19 percent, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, or CBPP.
Only Texas’ state formula funding was found to be worse — down 20 percent — when comparing per-student funding between 2008-2019, even after adjusting for inflation.
The nonpartisan think tank works at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income individuals and families.
“Teacher protests led to sizable boosts to state funding for schools in several states, but those boosts were not enough to make up for earlier cuts. Funding sources for these boosts are not stable enough,” said Michael Leachman, senior director for state research at CBPP, in a conference call with reporters.
CBPP released a new report Tuesday that found state funding to schools is up in most of the states where teacher protest movements occurred in 2018. Most of the states where these protests occurred were among those that CBPP comparisons had shown for years had cut their school formula funding most deeply since the 2007-08 academic year.
Oklahoma led the nation in post-recession K-12 education funding cuts before state lawmakers approved teacher pay raises, which work out to about $6,100 more on average.
But CBPP analysts raised questions about the sustainability of the funding sources lawmakers relied on for the teacher pay hike.
“Three of these four states (Oklahoma, Arizona, and North Carolina) boosted school funding using revenue sources that will be difficult to maintain over time, likely making their progress short lived unless they raise revenue in more sustainable ways,” the report states. “Oklahoma funded pay increases for teachers and other public employees with a revenue package that included a hike in cigarette taxes, a boost in gasoline taxes, and an increase in the tax rate on oil extraction. While these revenue sources were adequate to cover the pay hikes, they may not be in the future.”
David Blatt, executive director for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, participated in Tuesday’s conference call with the CBPP report author and reporters from across the U.S.
He said Oklahoma “became the poster child for the funding crisis that led to teacher walkouts in numerous states and cities.”
The good news in Tuesday’s new report, according to Blatt?
“For the first time since 2013, we’re no longer No. 1 among states making the deepest cuts to education.”
And the bad news?
“We’re only second on this list behind Texas,” Blatt said. “It was a start, but only a start. These funding increases were not enough to make up for earlier cuts.”