Expectations Remain High As Funding Decreases For OK Schools

Thursday, September 1st 2016, 11:04 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma lawmakers will not use a $140 million surplus to give teachers a raise.

The Governor’s Office said Mary Fallin couldn't strike a deal with Republican leaders in the House and Senate during a meeting Thursday, which means there's no need for a special session.

The unexpected $140 million surplus will be divided proportionally among all state agencies.

It’s not just elementary and secondary schools in Oklahoma that are suffering from big budget cuts. State funding per student at the state’s colleges and universities are down 22 percent since 2008, and that’s having a big impact on both the schools and young people counting on a college degree to advance in life.

All across the country, it’s a struggle to fund education from kindergarten through higher education, but add in tuition hikes and cuts in campus staff, and the quality of higher education here in Oklahoma has some concerned.

Reggie Reynolds has a son at Booker T. Washington High School and said that he’s worried.

Many parents like Reynolds say finding ways to afford college is challenging, but it’s not just people, it’s also a challenge for the schools to keep up their standard of education.

State Higher-Ed funding numbers released by The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show the per-student funding for Oklahoma's public colleges and universities is down 22 percent since 2008.

Marty: "When you hear those numbers, what do you think?"
Reynolds: "I mean, I just think it's kind of ridiculous."

Lauren Brookey with Tulsa Community College said, "I don't think anybody can argue with the numbers - public financing for higher education, and for education in general, is decreasing."

But the expectations on students and schools are not.

"Deliver quality, same level or more, and do it with less money," Brookey said.

Thursday night, people gathered for a TCC Foundation dinner to promote higher education funding.

In the last two years, TCC saw state aid drop by more than $2 million - the lowest since 2008.

So, to provide a better education, administrators slashed payroll salaries and benefits by more than $6 million. It's an effort to focus funds on education.

"With how to not only support our students with their success but reinvest in what we offer them so they are ready for the contemporary workforce," Brookey said.

Reynolds said he can't count on the state bringing funding back to higher education.

"That's why we're hoping for the kids to get scholarships and stuff like that," he said.

Tickets to Thursday night's dinner support the foundation, which helps supports scholarships and academic programs. It’s just one effort TCC is making to help students get degrees and be successful in the workforce.