#oklaed spending

Oklahoma City can’t afford to ignore national reports by journalists and scholars on the state of our #oklaed spending and society.

Report: OKC ranks 48th out of 50 in per student spending

Perhaps predictably, a Magnify Money report released in April ranked Oklahoma City 48th out of 50 in terms of largest education-spending cities. The average metro included in that study spends $12,807 per student, but Oklahoma City spends only $8,898 per student. By the way, the study also found we only spend $1,172 on capital investments and, even worse, we spend $143 per student on student supports.

Study: Highest-poverty students still need 50 to 80 percent more

Even more discouraging, a Rutgers University study published earlier this year found Oklahoma has been spending $8,476 per student for kids in the highest-poverty quintile, a whopping $6,654 per student below the estimated cost for the state’s at-risk students to just reach outcomes at the national average. Bringing OKCPS students to the national average in outcomes would require an increase in per-student spending ranging from almost 50 percent to nearly 80 percent increases for almost all OKCPS students.

Achievement gaps worsen along racial lines

Last, in 2016, the New York Times reported on national gaps in learning based on race and class. It found that the average low-income OKCPS sixth-grader was 1.7 years behind. Low-income whites were six months behind, while Hispanics were 1.9 years and blacks were 2.2 years behind. Tulsa’s achievement gap was worse: Tulsa whites were only one-fifth of a year behind, while Hispanics were 2.1 years and blacks were 2.4 years behind by sixth grade.

Priorities need to shift

And that brings us back to the measly $143 per student we spend on student supports as cited by Magnify Money. Like most districts, the OKCPS has chosen the safe but doomed approach of trying to “build a better teacher,” investing millions of dollars per year in that failed strategy. If we are serious about equity, we will shift priorities, recruit partnerships with other governmental and nonprofit institutions, and invest in early education and wraparound student-support services that will then allow for improved instruction.

My experience (and a huge body of social and cognitive science research) indicates that poor children of color will excel when offered the same respectful, meaningful and holistic instruction as their affluent peers. Investments in instruction won’t work in our poorest schools, however, until we lay a foundation of early education and socio-emotional supports.

Our high- and low-performing schools are products of the same interrelated causes:

  • generational poverty,
  • trauma borne of inequality,
  • and segregation.

What does it say about us that we find it so difficult to say those obvious truths out loud?