Budget & Tax , Education

Curtis Shelton | October 9, 2020

For-profit companies receive public school money

Curtis Shelton

Earlier this week, state Superintendent Joy Hofmeister heaped praise on a private-sector product that is helping to keep Oklahoma students safe.

"We made Rave Panic Button available to Oklahoma public schools because the safety of our students, faculty, and staff is our top priority," she said. "Over the last year, we’ve seen implementation of the Panic Button help produce better outcomes in emergency situations. Oklahoma is committed to creating a culture of safety in our schools, and Rave Panic Button is an important component of ensuring our students are learning in a safe environment."

Indeed, sending public money to private companies can be a good idea. And it’s not uncommon. In 2019, the latest year for which data are available, more than $1.7 billion of Oklahoma public-school money was spent on supplies and purchased services. The majority (not all) of this money went to for-profit businesses: construction-and-maintenance and repair companies, accounting firms, laundry services, janitorial services, book publishers, and more.

Data sources: Oklahoma Education Spending and Revenue data tool; inflation adjustments by author to 2020 dollars using the CPI inflation calculator

Curtis Shelton Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton

Policy Research Fellow

Curtis Shelton currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on fiscal policy. Curtis graduated Oklahoma State University in 2016 with a Bachelors of Arts in Finance. Previously, he served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time as a staff accountant for Sutherland Global Services.

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