One in four voters say Oklahoma education providing a good return on investment

Brandon Dutcher | June 26, 2023

Oklahoma’s 2023 legislative session is behind us, and “the new state budget features record appropriations for the Department of Education totaling $3.9 billion—a more-than $800 million increase,” Conrad Dudderar reported for the Yukon Progress on June 14.

“We had an historic budget for education,” state Rep. Rhonda Baker (R-Yukon) is quoted as saying. “With the funding that we have devoted to education, we’ve got to make sure we’re reaping rewards in the end. We’ve got to make sure that we’re starting to rise in our rankings. … We have really spent a lot of time trying to do what we can to support education. And we’ve got to see that return on our investment.”

Currently, only one in four Oklahoma voters say our state’s public education system is providing a good return on investment. This according to a new Cole Hargrave Snodgrass & Associates survey of registered Oklahoma voters:

“Public school spending in Oklahoma is $11,754 per student. Are taxpayers getting a good return on their investment of $11,754 per student per year?”

  • Yes .................. 24%

  • No .................. 64%

  • Undecided ..... 12%

The ROI numbers are discouraging across the board: among urban voters (24%/64%), rural voters (24%/65%), Republicans (20%/67%), and Democrats (32%/58%).

And this is with a per-student spending number provided by the NEA. (Oklahoma actually spends more than that—even before this year’s massive, “game-changing,” largest-in-state-history increase.)

So will ROI improve? “There’s no denying the fact that our test scores right now are abysmal,” former state Rep. Jason Dunnington said this weekend on News9. “But when you look at putting funding into education, it’s not like remodeling a house, where you spend the money, you do the remodel, and it looks amazing right after. When you invest in education, it takes years beyond the investment in order to see the fruits of that investment in education.”

Education spending is now at a record-high level. “We just put that record investment in,” Dunnington said. “We should be looking five years from now to see if that investment is making a difference when it comes to test scores.”

Anyone who has pondered the last 100 years of ROI probably isn’t optimistic about the next five. But we shall see.

Brandon Dutcher Senior Vice President

Brandon Dutcher

Senior Vice President

Brandon Dutcher is OCPA’s senior vice president. Originally an OCPA board member, he joined the staff in 1995. Dutcher received his bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Oklahoma. He received a master’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in public policy from Regent University. Dutcher is listed in the Heritage Foundation Guide to Public Policy Experts, and is editor of the book Oklahoma Policy Blueprint, which was praised by Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman as “thorough, well-informed, and highly sophisticated.” His award-winning articles have appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, WORLD magazine,,, The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, and 200 newspapers throughout Oklahoma and the U.S. He and his wife, Susie, have six children and live in Edmond.

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