THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF OKLAHOMA SCHOOL FINANCE
In light of the historic passage of a historic bond for Putnam City’s students (THANK YOU AGAIN VOTERS), I thought I would step back a moment and explain some strange aspects of Oklahoma school finance law. It is a rather convoluted process, and I don’t understand it all, but I am happy to field additional questions and get you answers later. For now, let’s get to the basics.
Oklahoma schools are funded through what we call State Aid. Mostly, it is determined by the number of students in your district, but a variety of factors affect the final amount of money each district receives from tax revenues which fund State Aid. One factor that affects the final amount is the amount of Chargeables figured into the formula. These are local revenue sources which go to the local school district, including property taxes, county taxes and others.
The state calculates the State Aid for each district, then subtracts the Chargeables, and you get a new amount of State Aid. Now, some school districts don’t have the local revenue that others have, so their State Aid amount will be higher than some.
Why? Why all rigmarole? Why not just take the total pot of tax revenue and divide it by the number of students and then give that amount per student to each district? Well, that is essentially what is happening. But this more nuanced method reveals an Oklahoma value as old as our state constitution.
The child in Guymon deserves as good of an education as the child in Hugo.
The playing field is ostensibly equal. Of course, you can look at the disparities in some of our districts and wonder if maybe there isn’t a better way to reach the goal of equity in education. I would not disagree with you.
We’ll get into some more details in a future post, and respond to your questions as well, so please keep them coming.
February 27, 2020