Jonathan Small | March 7, 2014

Oklahoma’s per-pupil available revenues at an all-time high

Jonathan Small

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, per-pupil available revenues have reached an all-time high. To calculate per-pupil available revenue, one simply divides the total available revenue by the total enrollment.

It’s important to understand that the current system of public education in Oklahoma is a partnership between the state of Oklahoma and local school districts. Both are authorized by the Oklahoma constitution to provide revenue for the various expenses of common education. Our system of financing common education is somewhat unique, and differs from other government programs where state dominance and state funds comprise the majority of the program. Programs such as Medicaid, transportation, welfare assistance, and others operate primarily on state and federal funds, without the arrangement or expectation of local revenue involvement. Given this relationship, analyzing total available revenue per-pupil is vital if one wants a clear revenue picture.


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Some may be surprised to see such large per-pupil revenue numbers. This is because common education’s financial activities are most often evaluated in a flawed and incomplete manner. OCPA has discussed previously how focusing on only part of the revenue picture leads to flawed conclusions. The same holds true for education. Many erroneously evaluate common education’s financial activity based solely on state appropriations or other selective categories that do not provide the full picture. But we must remember when analyzing government financial activity as a whole, the whole of common education is the revenue and spending at all levels of the state and local partnership. Indeed, this concept is not foreign: the current system the state uses for calculating aid attempts to acknowledge this to some degree. The system for determining aid to be given for a particular student adjusts the amount based on available local revenues and other factors.

For a complete analysis we must look at all sources available for revenue. Oklahoma families evaluate their budgets, income, and spending in this manner. Families make financial decisions based on all the income and expenses available to or expected by the household, and don’t selectively consider just one revenue source.

What about enrollment growth over time, you may ask. I’ll address that question in a subsequent blog post.

Jonathan Small President

Jonathan Small


Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.

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