Oklahoma has dropped another rung on the education funding ladder, falling to 50th lowest in the country, according to a new national report on per pupil expenditures. The latest funding estimates from the National Education Association indicate only Utah spends less on its public school students than Oklahoma.
"This should serve as a wake-up call for anyone who thought we were already doing enough for our public schools. We can talk about reform all we want, but if we don't include funding in those discussions, we¹re going to be shortchanging our kids and our economic future," said Senator Cal Hobson, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
The Lexington legislator was reacting to new school funding estimates from the National Education Association. In a comparison of estimated education spending in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Oklahoma ranked 50th in per pupil expenditures. That marks a decline from the last NEA report which ranked Oklahoma 48th in the nation.
"Even though we've been increasing school spending in recent years, we haven't been keeping pace with our competitors around the country. I'd like to think that we've finally hit rock bottom in financial support and are ready to turn this thing around, but only time will tell," said Senator Hobson.
State lawmakers are currently considering a variety of school reform proposals offered by the House, the Senate and the Governor. The discussion thus far has focused mostly on the proposals themselves, not the cost of implementing them.
"There's no shortage of reform ideas, but there is a shortage of the funding necessary to pay for them. It's important for everyone to realize that educational improvements generally carry a price tag. If we don't pay the price, we won't get the reforms, and our students and economy will suffer," said Senator Hobson.
"I think everyone involved in the reform debate, including Governor Keating, realizes that money makes a difference. It's critical that we act on that knowledge this year and do something meaningful to address our deficiencies in education."