Budget & Tax , Education

Ray Carter | January 15, 2024

Oklahoma school reserves hit $1.2 billion high

Ray Carter

The amount of money that Oklahoma public schools carried over at the end of the last state budget year, a sum representing both cash-flow reserves and savings, hit a new high of $1.2 billion on June 30, 2023, according to state government figures.

That figure accounts for money carried forward, and held in reserve, by schools at the end of June 2023, although the figure was not publicly reported until Dec. 29, 2023.

School carryover increased $282 million over the course of a year, continuing a trend of significant increase in public-school savings in recent years.

Since the end of the 2017 state budget year, school carryover has surged by 94 percent, nearly doubling from $661.4 million in 2017 to $1.2 billion at the end of June 2023. The growth in carryover far exceeds the rate of inflation during that period.

The $624.7 million increase in school carryover that occurred from 2017 to June 2023 represents 87 percent of the increased state appropriation provided to schools during that time.

School carryover surged by $624.7 million from 2017 to June 2023 even as state appropriations to public schools increased by $714.4 million, rising from $2.46 billion to $3.18 billion in state appropriations, according to Oklahoma House of Representatives fiscal documents.

Carryover can include not only unspent state appropriation funding, but also school funding from other sources, such as local property taxes and some federal funds.

According to Oklahoma State Department of Education data, public-school district expenditures in 2023 totaled $9,538,453,992.67 when student enrollment was 701,066,, meaning the per-student expenditure was $13,605 that year, the most recent for which full data is available.

Ray Carter Director, Center for Independent Journalism

Ray Carter

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.

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