Oklahoma spends less on students than most states

Thursday, January 6th 2005, 10:46 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- Oklahoma ranked 41st among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in a school funding report, but it received relatively high grades for having clear academic standards and trying to improve teacher quality.

The state's average spending of $6,908 per student compared to a national average of $7,734, according to the study by Education Week, a trade publication. Amounts were adjusted for regional cost differences. The study examined spending during the 2001-02 school year.

Across the nation, per-student spending ranged from $5,132 in Utah to $11,269 in the District of Columbia.

Roy Bishop, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, said his organization is gathering information about student spending in Oklahoma.

"To be honest, we believe to meet the standards the state and federal governments have put on education, the adequacy need must be addressed," he said.

The Quality Counts report gave Oklahoma a B for its efforts to improve teacher quality.

Ted Gillispie, executive director of the Oklahoma Commission for Teacher Preparation, said the commission's "continuous efforts towards improving standards in teacher preparation for the past eight years have kept Oklahoma at the top of the nation in teacher quality."

Gillispie said an emphasis on performance-based teacher accreditation, rigorous candidate assessment and quality professional development result in national recognition.

The report gave Oklahoma a B+ for having good standards and accountability.

"Oklahoma has clear and specific standards in English, mathematics and science at the elementary, middle, and high school levels," the report said. "The state is one of 12 that give students standards-based tests in every core subject in every grade span."

In Kansas this week, the state Supreme Court ordered its legislature to spend more money on public education -- one of several education lawsuits popping up across the nation, said Lynn Olsen, project editor with Education Week.

"I believe the Kansas case is an example of a variety of states who have not met the needs of their school systems, and that's certainly why we're exploring our issue," Bishop said.

Jennifer Park, a senior research associate with Education Week, said states have a "patchwork of state revenue sources for education" and that Oklahoma is the most recent state to introduce an education lottery.

Park said Oklahoma is the 24th state with a lottery where some proceeds benefit public schools.

State officials expect the lottery to raise $150 million a year for public schools and colleges.

Virginia Edwards, editor and publisher of the trade publication, said governors and legislatures across the nation are debating education funding. She said states too often have focused on distributing the money equitably among districts and not paying attention to where it has been spent.