The Edmond Sun

July 26, 2013

Per pupil state aid increase brings mixed results

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Recently the State Department of Education released school districts’ initial state aid allocations for the FY 2014 school year. Districts will see an increase in per-pupil funding of $8.60 per student, the report stated.

“This is the state aid amount,” said Tricia Pemberton, state senior communications specialist, “and every district will receive this amount for each student that is counted in the district and additional state monies will be added according to the weighted student average daily membership. There is also federal money, county money and ad valorem tax money among the factors when money is dispersed.”  

The initial allocation for FY 2014 is $3,038.60 per student as opposed to the $3,030 initially allocated for FY 2013, according to a press release from the State Board of Education.

Lori Smith, chief financial officer for the Edmond Public School District, said because of the changes that will be made in the state aid formula in December, for Edmond the most meaningful component of the initial state aid formula calculation is the foundation aid and salary incentive aid factors.

“The preliminary combined factor represents a $4 per student increase over last year’s final factor of $3,034.60 (per pupil),” Smith said.  

Contributing most to the increase in FY2014 state aid allocations is the State Department of Education’s receipt of an additional $21.5 million in funding for state aid to schools during this past legislative session.

“Our state is growing in population and that is a very good thing, but with more children comes increased financial needs for our school districts across the state,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Janet Barresi. “Overall, education received 43 percent of the new revenue in the state’s budget. That increase in funding shows us the commitment to education by the governor and Legislature.”  

Oklahoma has seen an increase of 7,358 students across the state since the end of the 2011-12 school year; that translates into a weighted student population of 15,969. Designated values are added to children for characteristics such as those with special needs, children from poverty, etc., because they often need additional educational support. The appropriations just disbursed are the initial allocations for the 2013-14 school year. There will be a mid-year allocation to adjust for any changes in student population during the first half of the school year.

When calculating the initial allocations for FY 2014, per state law, 1.5 percent of the funding was held back for mid-year adjustments.

“We held back the bare minimum for mid-year allocations because it was my desire to help the districts with as much of an increase in per-pupil funding as possible at the beginning of the school year,” Barresi said. “Schools are always in need of additional resources to educate our children. I pushed hard this year for increased funding and I am committed to the same in the future.”

Smith said the state aid allocation considers many variables that are not known at the time of the initial funding allocation.

“Therefore, while the initial allocation gives school districts a starting point, it is rarely a true representation of the funding for the year,” Smith said. “For Edmond, a growing district, the final formula will include a higher student count, offset by higher chargeables for local revenue growth. Edmond’s weighted average daily membership last year was 32,967.81 on a student base of 22,501. Thus, if all other variables were constant based on last year’s end of school numbers, the increase in the factors would produce $131,871 in additional revenue.”

“Oklahoma’s system of school funding is based upon ‘weighting’ of students; the higher a district’s weighted student membership, the greater the level of funding,” said Edmond’s Superintendent David Goin. “A significant ‘weight’ within the formula is a school district’s number of students qualifying for free or reduced lunches, which is based upon students’ family income. The relative affluence of the Edmond community compared to state averages greatly affects the overall funding of Edmond Public Schools. We receive roughly $1,100 less in overall per pupil funding than the average Oklahoma school district.

“To expand the perspective; of 500-plus public school districts in Oklahoma, Edmond Public Schools’ per pupil funding ranks 23rd from the bottom.”

Barresi cautioned districts to be conservative in administering their budgets because of the impact student growth could have on mid-year adjustments.