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Cost of Living Reconsidered

May 18, 2012

The beauty in having an education blog committed to setting the record straight is that I don’t have to wait around very long for the next cause to write. Today’s inspiration comes courtesy of the Oklahoman. Their editorial this morning proclaimed that we shouldn’t be alarmed that per pupil spending in Oklahoma is 49th in the country. Their rationale is the fact that the cost of living in Oklahoma City is lower than in San Francisco.

On that point, they’re correct. It’s cheaper to live in Oklahoma than most states in the country. In contrast, a city that compares well to OKC in terms of cost of living is Houston. Using CNN’s Cost of Living calculator, as the Oklahoman did, the average per pupil spending of $7,878 would only amount to $7,817 in Houston. Yet Texas is 4oth in the country in education spending – about $700 more per student. (I debated whether or not to compare state to city and then back to state again, as the Oklahoman so adeptly did. While I was reluctant to go with a non-parallel comparison, this is a response to their argument – so I followed their form.)

This line of reasoning is simply a distraction. Whether California schools get the same amount per pupil or more, school funding in Oklahoma is inadequate. Whether the cost of living is higher in California and lower in parts of Texas is equally irrelevant. The state is going to continue reducing taxes, taking per pupil funding to even lower levels. And we’re going to continue to implement reforms that further hamstring schools. Less money to spend plus even less of it going directly into the classroom – this is a recipe for disaster.

Oklahoma schools have spent the last several years cutting costs. The programs that have been eliminated weren’t waste; they were things like tutoring and field trips that enhance teaching and learning. The legislature continues to slash funding while the SDE continues to over-regulate schools. Regardless of geography, this hurts students. In the name of College and Career Readiness, it can’t go on much longer without us seeing dire consequences.

 

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