The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 18, 2013

State school funding notched up a bit — by $8.60 per student

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

— The amount of money each Oklahoma school district gets in state funding is notching up a bit for the coming school year, but the larger picture isn’t necessarily rosy.

Oklahoma Department of Education is allocating $3,038.60 per student — an increase of $8.60 from last year — because of an increase in federal funding for schools. The federal government gave Oklahoma an additional $21.5 million for state aid to schools.

“Our state is growing in population and that is a very good thing, but with more children comes increased financial needs for our school districts across the state,” said Janet Barresi, state superintendent of public instruction. “Overall, education received 43 percent of the new revenue in the state’s budget. That increase in funding shows us the commitment to education by the governor and Legislature.”

It may be 43 percent of new revenue, but it’s a decrease in the total percentage of the overall state budget, Chisholm Superintendent Roydon Tilley said.

Tilley provided a spreadsheet that shows the overall state budget for fiscal year 2014 is $7.1 billion. The common education portion, $2.4 billion, is an increase of $74 million from last year, but still a smaller percentage of the total state budget than last year.

“We went from a $6.8 billion budget to a $7.1 billion budget,” Tilley said.

Common education is 33.84 percent of the overall FY 2014 state budget.

“Just a year ago, we got 34.08 percent of the state budget,” Tilley said.

If last year’s percentage was applied to this year’s total budget, schools would have received an additional $16.7 million.

Amber Fitzgerald, communications director for Enid Public Schools, looked back as far as 2010, when Oklahoma schools received $2.57 billion — 39 percent of the total state budget.

“We continue to educate more students with less resources,” Fitzgerald said. “While our enrollment numbers have soared, our funding per student has dwindled. If we received the same amount of funding per student this year that we did in 2010, we would actually have $3 million more to invest in student learning during 2013-14.”

Fitzgerald provided a copy of Barresi’s memo to school superintendents. That document notes the state Education Department held back $11.7 million for new charter schools.

“If there are funds left over from the $11.7 million held back for new charter schools, those funds will be added to allocations by September,” the memo reads.

Fitzgerald said she wishes Oklahomans would take school funding to heart.

“Our focus is providing the best educational opportunities for Enid’s children, even if our dollars are fewer,” Fitzgerald said. “We can’t allow this obstacle to get in the way of their academic success. We do, however, want teachers, parents and all Oklahomans to get involved to make sure funding education is a priority in our state.”