Ray Carter | January 28, 2022
Hofmeister seeks dramatic increase in agency budget
While State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister’s budget request includes a modest percentage increase in funding for school districts, it includes a much larger increase of 27 percent for her agency’s budget.
The request for increased administrative spending comes even as lawmakers note it appears less money is going to classrooms in Oklahoma than in surrounding states.
Under Hofmeister’s budget plan, the Oklahoma State Department of Education would receive $19.1 million, a 27 percent increase compared to the agency’s current budget of $15.03 million. The request was presented this week to members of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.
Citing U.S. Department of Education data, Rep. Chad Caldwell noted that Oklahoma is directing less money to classroom instruction than what occurs in surrounding states.
“Our education spending has increased a little over 11 percent, which is higher than our regional average,” said Caldwell, R-Enid. “But our instructional spending has only increased about 2 percent, which is significantly below the regional average. So as we’re pumping more money into the system, it’s not going to the classroom. It’s not going for our teachers and our students.”
Carolyn Thompson, chief of government affairs for the Oklahoma State Department of Education, said Oklahoma school officials want more money directed to non-classroom expenses.
“Many of the things that we hear from teachers about what students need are those supports outside of the classroom,” Thompson said. “I don’t know if that’s what you’re getting at, but when you talk about a social worker, a behavioral specialist that’s in the school that can help with discipline problems, a counselor, a co-teacher, somebody that you can partner with, these are the kinds of things, I think, that help support learning in the classroom that, depending on which definition you look at, may or may not make it into that definition.”
But Caldwell noted the gap between Oklahoma and surrounding states, which presumably hire many of those same personnel, is substantial. In a recent tweet, Oklahoma State School Boards Association Executive Director Shawn Hime noted that Oklahoma’s education funding has increased by $750 million in recent years. But even as overall education funding has surged in Oklahoma, Caldwell noted spending directed to classroom instruction has surged far more in most surrounding states.
“They’re increasing 14, 16, over 20 percent for some of our states in our region,” Caldwell said. “Ours are only increasing 2 percent, which is by far the lowest—significantly lower than our regional expenditures.”
He said that suggests the significant increase in school funding approved by the Legislature in recent years may not be providing the maximum benefit for students.
“The Legislature’s invested,” Caldwell said, “but our kids and our teachers aren’t seeing the benefit of that.”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.