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How a legislative report recommends changing the way Oklahoma pays for public schools

Jacob McCleland / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Oklahoma's education funding formula is complicated.

Take a look at the 540-page state aid calculation document for each district if you don’t believe it.

But it’s also incredibly important. The formula is used to determine how much state aid each school district receives based on a variety of factors. For the upcoming school year, that will determine where much of the $3.2 billion allocated by the state to fund K-12 education will go.

This year, there was a slight increase for education expenditures, but none of that will go into day-to-day operations at schools. Lawmakers kept the money going into the formula the same, while increasing funding for some specific, mostly administrative programs.

That’s why lawmakers asked the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) to review how public funding goes to public schools in a draft report released and presented Tuesday.

Here are some topline findings:

  • In 2022, more than half of all students in 72% of Oklahoma’s school districts were economically disadvantaged — a total of 405,000 out of 680,000 students.
  • The funding formula has been largely unchanged since 1981.
  • Despite teacher pay raises, funding for in-classroom expenditures has been largely flat for the last decade. Oklahoma ranks 44th nationally in per pupil spending. 
  • The state’s accountability measures for monitoring education funding spent — part of the Oklahoma Cost Accounting System, or OCAS — is inadequate as it doesn’t supply enough information to lawmakers.
Robby Korth joined StateImpact Oklahoma in October 2019, focusing on education reporting.
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