Oklahoma educators push for more funds

Public education in Oklahoma drains more than half of the state’s discretionary budget and educators are pushing for more funding.

In November, state voters will decide the fate of an initiative petition that would increase state sales tax by 22 percent for education – including colleges and university and vocational training. A lawsuit has been filed to remove that from the November ballot.

In a report by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, Tulsa spends $11,682 per student per year with an enrollment in 2015 of 41,943. Instruction makes up only 36 percent of the $479,463,606 spent by Tulsa Public Schools. Tulsa spent $170,835,698 on instruction and $56,558,337 on debt service in 2015. Only $5,424,497 went to charter school reimbursement.

Here are some other expenditures:

$133,075,505 Certified salaries
$63,198,635 Noncertified salaries
$14,167,996 Health insurance (certified)
$13,596,275 Retirement
$11,584,738 Food and milk purchases
$9,314,275 Health insurance (noncertified)
$1,180,847 Superintendent’s office
$1,026,714 Legal services
$1,021,313 Staff travel
$916,166 State and federal relations
$78,495 Advertising
$269 Community relations services

The minimum starting salary for a teacher in Oklahoma is $31,600. Teacher salaries are decided by the Tulsa School Board, not by state legislators.

The national average for teacher pay is $56,610. Oklahoma’s average is only about a thousand dollars less than New Mexico and $2,000 less than Missouri. The salary comparisons across the nation don’t take into account benefits. Oklahoma pays about $500 a month toward health insurance. Also, the Republican-led Legislature has now fully funded the retirement fund, which was funded at less than 50 percent when the Democrats were in control before 2008.

Here are the averages for adjoining states (from the Oklahoma Department of Education):

$49,690

Texas

$49,615

Colorado

$48,221

Kansas

$47,319

Arkansas

$46,750

Missouri

$45,727

New Mexico

$44,549

Oklahoma

In 2015-2015, 676,402 students in Oklahoma public schools were eligible for a free lunch or a reduced lunch. That number was 20,000 fewer students (656,812) in 2010-2011.

Here is a breakdown of the food program:

78,200,000

Free and reduced price meals

68,792,107

Total free meals

43,065830

Free lunches

25,726,277

Free breakfasts

  9,451,512

Reduced price lunches

  3,064,020

Reduced price breakfasts

It is estimated that Oklahoma spends as much as $250,000,000.00 a year on pre-kindergarten classes. Ninety-nine percent of the state’s school district have a pre-K program.

The composite ACT score for college admission in Oklahoma was 20.7 this year., with 75 percent of the students taking the test. The national average is 21.

Oklahoma has 516 school districts. It has 997 elementary schools, 236 middle schools, 63 junior high schools and 454 high schools for a total of 1,795 public schools. The state has 32 charter schools (5 are virtual). Some bills aimed at consolidating districts were killed in a Senate committee during the recent legislative session.