The Edmond Sun

Education

June 30, 2014

Are Oklahoma schools top heavy?

EDMOND — The population of LeFlore County in southeastern Oklahoma is less than a tenth of Oklahoma County’s population. Yet Le Flore has 17 school districts compared to Oklahoma County’s 15.

At Reydon Public Schools in western Oklahoma, the superintendent makes $116,000 a year, including benefits, to oversee one of the smallest districts in the state, at 124 students. That’s $936 per student, compared to $6 for Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Keith Ballard, the highest paid superintendent this year, making $260,000.

For years, conservative legislators and others have decried what they say are high administrative costs in Oklahoma districts and schools. They say the state’s K-12 system is top-heavy and wasteful. And they point to this as a reason not to increase Oklahoma’s per-pupil funding to levels found in most other states, and to expand school-choice options such as charter schools.

Oklahoma Watch took an in-depth look at federal and state data on administrative and classroom costs in district schools. The data show that compared with other states, Oklahoma spends a high percentage of its budget on district administration and a low percentage on instruction. Oklahoma spends just above the national average on school administration.

In 2011-2012, Oklahoma ranked sixth among states in percentage of funds spent on district administration, at 3.2 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Those costs include superintendent pay, the school board, support staff and related office expenses.

The state ranked 16th in proportion spent on school administration, at 5.4 percent. That includes salaries and other staff costs.

In instruction, which includes teacher pay, the state ranked 40th, at 52 percent. The national average is 55 percent.

The measures don’t necessarily mean that most districts and schools in Oklahoma are rolling in administrative fat.

The state is one of the leanest spenders on common education in the nation, ranking 48th in per-pupil spending.

That has persisted for years even as Oklahoma schools were required to implement reforms that school officials say led to greater administrative costs. More testing and accountability, a new teacher evaluation system and more data collection took hold, yet per-pupil funding did not keep pace, school officials say.

State data shows that in the past decade, spending on district oversight increased by nearly 13 percent when adjusted for inflation. Classroom spending went up by under 8 percent.

Some advocacy groups call administration spending a red herring.

Gene Perry, policy director for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa-based think tank, said if Oklahoma were to cut its 3.2-percent rate of spending on district oversight to that of Hawaii’s, the lowest in the nation at 0.5 percent, it would have relatively little impact. The savings would total $249 per student, or $165 million, a year. If all of the savings went to the classroom, Oklahoma would move up only one spot, to fourth from last, in instructional spending per student.

Perry said the state instead should focus on increasing overall K-12 funding. That would raise classroom spending while reducing the overall percentage going to administration.

“Adding a little bit is better than nothing … but it’s not going to make up for the education cuts we made in previous years,” Perry said.

State Superintendent Janet Barresi said Oklahoma needs to realign its priorities to get more money directed to the classroom.

Even if cutting administrative overhead yields small savings, the additional money for the classroom would help schools. It could mean hiring new teachers or buying new textbooks.

“Are these administrators directly supporting the classroom or are they just doing paperwork?” Barresi said. “The closer you get to the student and supporting the teacher, in my experience it has shown year after year you get better academic results.”

Joy Hofmeister, who defeated Barresi in the Republican primary on Tuesday, did not respond to requests for comment.

Text Only
Education
  • UCO announces Spring 2014 Honor Roll students

    The University of Central Oklahoma recently announced the students named to the university honor rolls, a distinction given to those who achieve the highest academic standards.
    For the spring 2014 semester, 1,073 students made the President’s Honor Roll, an honor achieved by those who recorded a “straight-A” or 4.0 GPA.

    July 28, 2014

  • 11.6.12 Mother and Cub (2).jpg UCO forensic researcher answers key question

    After working a few human recovery cases on a volunteer basis with a variety of police departments, a question kept bugging Kama King.
    “You spend the whole day,” the UCO W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute student said, “sometimes days, searching for someone and only find a skull or a few bones and it just ate at me. Are we not finding this or is it not there to be found?”

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • pm_Ramona Paul.jpg Keith, 5 others to receive service awards

    The 2014 Door-Opener Awards Gala dinner and silent auction Sept. 4, benefitting ASTEC Charter Schools, will recognize five outstanding Oklahomans and one Kansan for lifetime contributions made toward helping others in society maximize potential and achieve dreams.
    Those selected to receive a Door-Opener Award at the Skirvin Hilton Hotel event include Dr. Harvey Dean, Pittsburg, Kan.; Toby Keith and Tricia Covel, Norman; Former Gov. George P. Nigh, Edmond; the late Dr. Ramona Paul, Edmond; and Natalie Shirley, Oklahoma City.

    July 28, 2014 2 Photos

  • Edmond Youth Chorus auditions begin Monday

    The Fine Arts Institute of Edmond is seeking talented youth to try out for the upcoming season of the Edmond Youth Chorus.

    July 25, 2014

  • Rainbow Fleet introduces statewide child care line

    Oklahoma parents can now access a statewide program designed to provide resources and referrals for services across Oklahoma.

    July 25, 2014

  • Team Oklahoma Team Oklahoma brings home third place from NTAE

    Members of Team Oklahoma competing in the National Tournament of Academic Excellence placed third at the national competition held recently in Orlando.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Edmond School District’s change orders anticipated

    When building new schools and classrooms there may be additional costs, but when renovating older buildings those costs can more than double, according to a Edmond School District official.
    “When remodeling, you have unknown and hidden costs and you need to include in your budgeted funds for the built-in items you can not see,” said Bret Towne, Edmond’s associate superintendent of general administration.

    July 25, 2014

  • OC welcomes missionary, military families

    For the ninth consecutive year Oklahoma Christian University will host missionary and military families returning to the United States at Global Reunion 2014.
    The July 23-27 camp has doubled in size in the last two years with 150 participants from 43 countries on campus.
    The camp is for children who are known as Third Culture Kids (TCKs) though parents are allowed to attend sessions as well. Directors Kent and Nancy Hartman, missionaries-in-residence at OC, give tools and resources to families that have lived outside the United States and are now seeking to reenter U.S. culture. The Hartmans spent more than 10 years as missionaries in Australia and were surprised by the challenges of reintegrating their family into America.

    July 25, 2014

  • UCO DEBATE_submitted.jpg UCO debate team succeeds at nationals

    The University of Central Oklahoma’s debate team traveled to Bloomington, Ind., at the end of March to compete in the Cross Examination Debate Association’s National Championship Tournament (CEDANCT), bringing home several awards and finishing the year ranked no. 24 in the nation.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • OBU dance team celebrates National Dance Day

    In 2010, “So You Think You Can Dance” co-creator and Dizzy Feet Foundation co-president Nigel Lythgoe created National Dance Day in an effort to help people embrace dance and combat obesity on the last Saturday in July.
    This year, on July 26, Oklahoma Baptist University’s dance team will host a fundraiser that allows participants to dance all day for $30. The fundraiser will be in the Noble Complex on OBU’s campus.
    Cami Gower, an OBU junior and co-captain/co-founder of the dance team, said the team’s officers have been planning for their upcoming season since April. Gower is a graduate of Deer Creek High School.
    “Since then we have been coming up with better ways to reach the community with dance,” she said. “This day of dance was a great way to do it and help the team raise funds.”

    July 24, 2014