Budget & Tax

‘Game-changing’ spending hikes propel education funding to record levels

Curtis Shelton | November 2, 2023

Since 2018, the Oklahoma Legislature and Gov. Kevin Stitt have made a concerted effort to increase funding to education.

“With the implementation of this year's education plan,” House Speaker Charles McCall said on May 19 of this year, “the Legislature will have invested more funding into public education in the past five years than in the previous 27 years combined.”

Reporting on May 20 on this year’s education plan, the Tulsa World noted: “The new money for public schools is the largest common education funding increase in state history, said Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. ‘It’s really game changing for public education,’ he said.”

From fiscal years 2018 to 2024, legislative appropriations have grown by $1 billion. That’s a 34 percent increase when adjusted to current 2023 dollars. Not adjusted for inflation, the increase is 63 percent.

Sources: Oklahoma House of Representatives Fiscal Year Summaries; Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator

Appropriations only make up around 40 percent of total funding for public education. Total revenue available to K-12 education has grown by 13 percent (adjusted for inflation) between 2018 and 2022, the latest year for which data are available. If the last two years of funding increases were included, the growth would be much higher.

Moreover, these funding numbers do not include the costs of the Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS), which exceed $300 million every year. Dedicated state revenue to TRS was $441 million in 2022 when adjusted for inflation.

Sources: Oklahoma Teachers’ Retirement System Popular Annual Financial Report; Bureau of Labor Statistics CPI Inflation Calculator

The funding increases provided by the Legislature and Gov. Stitt have primarily been aimed at raising teacher pay. The minimum starting salary for a teacher in Oklahoma has grown by 25 percent since 2018 when unadjusted for inflation (2.6 percent when adjusted for inflation). For a teacher with 10 years of experience, the minimum starting salary has grown by 30 percent unadjusted, and 6.3 percent adjusted. To put that in perspective, the median personal income in Oklahoma has only grown by 4 percent since 2018 when adjusted for inflation. The continued increase in hiring of staff is a factor in teacher pay increases not keeping up with funding increases.

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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