Oklahoma Leads Nation in Education Funding Cuts, Report Finds

Published January 3, 2017

Oklahoma has cut more from general education funding since 2008 than any other state in the nation, a new report has found.

The report, released by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in October, says Oklahoma has cut state per-pupil funding by 26.9 percent since 2008, nearly double what was cut in Alabama, the state with the second-highest reductions.

In an analysis by The Heritage Foundation, researchers found federal spending on education had increased by 138 percent between 1985 and 2008, the first year the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities study takes into account, inflating many state education budgets to unsustainable levels.   

‘Plenty of Funding’

Greg Forster, a senior fellow at EdChoice, says Oklahoma is spending more than enough on education.

“There is no shortage of public school funding in Oklahoma,” Forster said. “Given the state’s low cost of living and comparatively low incidence of major social problems that complicate education, there should be plenty of funding.”

Brandon Dutcher, vice president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, says Oklahoma’s education cuts are not responsible for poor student outcomes.

“The disastrous results for students have been going on for several decades now,” Dutcher said. “Research has consistently shown there’s no necessary relationship between government spending on education and student performance. In any case, Oklahoma’s education system had $8.7 billion in total revenue [in 2015], the most in state history. Total spending per student was $9,724. If that’s not enough money to educate students, there’s something wrong with the grown-ups, not the kids.”

‘School Choice Saves Money’

Dutcher says school choice programs are a fiscally sensible solution to the poor performance of government schools. 

“By now, it’s no secret that school choice saves money,” Dutcher said. “As Greg Forster’s comprehensive research summary shows, of the 28 empirical studies that have looked at school choice’s fiscal impact on taxpayers and public schools, 25 find that school choice programs save money, and three find that the programs they looked at are revenue neutral. Moreover, a fiscal analysis of the proposed education savings account legislation in Oklahoma also shows that the program would save money.”

Dutcher says the value of education choice goes beyond fiscal considerations.

“But in the end, money should not be the highest concern,” Dutcher said. “Parents, not government officials, have a moral right to determine their child’s upbringing. Policymakers should secure that right and stop penalizing parents financially for raising their children in accordance with their consciences.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.