A Simplified Guide to Education Funding

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (Aug. 3, 2015) – The 1889 Institute, an Oklahoma state policy think tank, recently published “A Primer for Understanding Oklahoma’s School Funding System.” Although public education consistently receives the single biggest appropriation in Oklahoma’s state budget, few understand the complex maze of formulas and calculations that make up Oklahoma’s school finance system.

Approximately $2.4 billion is divided amongst the state’s 541 school districts and charter schools. Many school district superintendents, school board members and legislators are mystified by the system.

“Other than a few overly simplified PowerPoint presentations, there are no resources for the layman to learn about Oklahoma’s school finance system,” said the paper’s author, Byron Schlomach, director of state policy at the 1889 Institute. “The state’s “Technical Assistance Document” is good for those who have already been introduced to the system in some other way, but very difficult for the beginner,” Schlomach said.

The “Primer” was produced in the hope that more policymakers will have a better understanding of school funding so that more honest debate can occur when reforms are proposed.

“Some good education reforms have been rejected because of misunderstandings about how they would affect common school finances,” said Vance Fried, president of the 1889 Institute. “The system is complex and arcane, but it must be understood for policymakers to make informed decisions,” Fried said.

One discovery Schlomach made in looking at school finances was of particular interest. “It’s a myth that there is a lot of money to be had in gaining efficiencies by consolidating small school districts,” Schlomach said. “Oklahoma’s 300 very small districts spend less than 13 percent of statewide total spending on public education, and they spend less per student, and much less in total, than Oklahoma’s 13 biggest districts.”

With “A Primer for Understanding Oklahoma’s School Funding System” as a new resource, Schlomach hopes there will be a greater understanding to Oklahoma’s education funding.


About the 1889 Institute

The 1889 Institute is a new Oklahoma think tank committed to independent, principled state policy fostering limited and responsible government, free enterprise and a robust civil society. This paper, “A Primer for Understanding Oklahoma’s School Funding System,” can be found at the nonprofit’s website at www.1889institute.org.