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True Colors

Thursday at the State Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Barresi faced criticism from several board members about the fact that funding is being withheld from schools, in excess of what is necessary, and without warning to districts that have to plan a coming school year. Here was her response, as quoted yesterday in the Tulsa World:

“Funding for education in this country has doubled over the last 10 years with flatline results. Do we just throw a lot more money at it? Respectfully, school choice is a right in this state. It is not a luxury. It’s an important part of the mix in education.”

Her deflection of legitimate criticism from her own board – appointed just for her after Governor Fallin relieved the previous board of their responsibilities – misses the point. We’re not talking about funding nationwide. Nice try anyway.

The statement I quoted is one of the favorite lies of the fanatics who love to claim that public education is failing. It’s much more than that, though; it’s actually a big lie made up of several smaller ones. Let’s take a look…

  • Funding for education has not doubled, in Oklahoma, or nationally. In 2010-11, schools in Oklahoma spent $7,586 per pupil. Compare that to $5,925 in 2000-01. Adjust the 2001 dollars to 2011 dollars, and the figure from 10 years ago becomes $7,525. Nothing has doubled.
  • One thing that has increased is poverty. Ten years ago, 48.8% of Oklahoma public school students qualified for free and reduced lunch. In 2011, that had increased to 60.6%.
  • Meanwhile, the contribution of the state to school funding has decreased from 58.0% ten years ago to 45.5% now. So schools are spending roughly the same amount of money they were ten years ago, but more of it is coming from the federal government now. The state burden for public education has actually declined on a per pupil basis.
  • Results have not flatlined. Nationally, NAEP scores on math, reading, and science are up. In Oklahoma, they are also up, but not with the same rate of increase. Also, as recently as Thursday, Barresi was praising Oklahoma test results, saying that test scores have been rising for several years.
  • Providing district funding at the start of the school year would not eliminate the choices that parents have for their students. Barresi simply chose to prioritize charter and virtual choices, funding those schools at the level of the maximum number of students who could enroll in those schools. That is little consolation to districts like Owasso and Bixby that are growing so fast that they start every school year over capacity.

The one consistency in all of this is that Barresi praises schools when it suits her and calls them failures when it doesn’t. Backed into a corner by her own board, her true colors came through.

 

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