Mid-term Adjustments: Virtually Unbelievable
Remember that scene in the holiday classic Christmas Vacation when Clark Griswold finally receives his bonus from work, only instead of cash, it’s a membership in the Jelly of the Month Club? And remember the deadpan delivery of Cousin Eddie on perhaps his second-best line of the movie?
Clark, that’s the gift that keeps on giving throughout the entire year.
That’s how many Oklahoma school districts feel right now. During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, the State Department of Education released the mid-term adjustments to state allocations. You can download the list here and look for yourself, but my initial impression is that 287 districts (charter schools count as separate districts – more on this later) received cuts while 254 saw either no change or an increase. You can download the file and review the information (complete with errors in grammar, punctuation, and the calculation of percentages) for yourself.
You’ll recall that when districts received their initial state aid notices in July, the SDE had withheld an unprecedented 3.52 percent out of the formula. Her predecessor always capped the reserve at 1.5 percent. Then in August, after enrollment numbers were known, the SDE put half a percent more into the funding formula and issued an adjustment to districts’ original funding notices. Still, more than three percent was being held back – an amount more than double what is required by law.
With the release of money at mid-term, the reserve should be down to zero. It isn’t. The reserve was at $64 million in July and down to $55 million in August. Now the SDE has released an additional $41,618,876 into the funding formula. If my math is correct, there is more than $13,000,000 still in reserve.
I have heard from several superintendents and finance directors who are alarmed at their mid-term adjustment. Even several receiving an increase received a much smaller one than expected – the gift that keeps on giving.
One superintendent told me that the explanation is in the number of virtual students. The biggest winner in mid-term adjustments was Choctaw-Nicoma Park Charter, which went from no state aid to $10,479,233. That’s right, one charter school serving virtual students absorbed more than a quarter of the entire amount let out for mid-term adjustments.
Another superintendent mentioned that with this adjustment, the weighted per pupil funding factor has now decreased by $200 per student since 2010 and is down more than $400 since 2008. Yet there are more students and the things that schools have to pay for are getting more expensive.
This latest funding head-scratcher leaves me with the following questions:
- How many students are enrolled at Choctaw-Nicoma Park Charter for it to rank between Sapulpa and Coweta in state aid?
- Same question, but for Graham Charter: Epic One on One, which ranks between Ada and Bixby in state aid.
- Of the $1.75 million set aside for Lindsay Nicole Henry Scholarships (listed at the bottom of the spreadsheet), how much has been used?
- Can what remains from LNH be placed back into the funding formula?
- How does the SDE plan to use the remaining money that is being kept in reserve?
I have more questions than that, quite honestly. But it’s the first Monday in January, and from the looks of things, this is going to be a long week month year. I should pace myself.