It Depends on What Your Definition of “Up” Is
Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a post titled Another Bad Decision discussing the SDE’s decision to withhold 3.52 percent of school funding from districts. It was my first post to go over 2,000 page views, and it remains one of my three most-viewed posts. And that was back when this blog had about one-third of the readers it does now. The fact that so many people were outraged over a finance issue that, to be honest, involves a lot of nuance and detailed formulas, shows that many Oklahomans are becoming better informed about education policy.
This year, there’s still plenty of room for outrage. School districts received their initial state aid allocations from the SDE this week, and initial reports indicated a slight increase. From the SDE press release:
OKLAHOMA CITY (July 18, 2013) – This week, the State Department of Education released to school districts initial state aid allocations for the FY14 school year. Districts will see an increase in per-pupil funding of $8.60 per student. The initial allocation for FY14 is $3,038.60 per student as opposed to the $3,030.00 received for FY13.
Contributing most to the increase in FY14 state aid allocations is the State Department of Education’s receipt of an additional $21.5 million in funding for state aid to schools during this past legislative session.
“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. 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,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi.
That $8.60 may seem huge to you, and I’ve definitely enjoyed reading some humorous suggestions on Twitter about how to best utilize those funds, but seriously, this fixes nothing. At face value, it’s an increase of 0.3%. In truth, it’s not really an increase at all. It’s higher than last year’s initial per pupil allocation, when the state withheld 3.52 percent of the formula money. It’s lower than the adjustment that was made the next month, however, and considerably lower than the mid-term adjustments that were made in December. Making things worse are the reduced ad valorem funding that districts will collect due to SQ 766, and federal budget sequestration.
Repeat after me: Schools once again will have less money to serve more students and meet more political mandates.
Nobody deserves thanks for that.