Michael Carnuccio | October 24, 2014

Free Market Friday: An honest education

Michael Carnuccio

Funded by George Soros and other left-wing heavy hitters, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is an organization with an agenda that includes carbon taxes, death taxes, Obamacare, food stamps and increasing the minimum wage – the standard liberal fare.

The CBPP also favors increased government spending on our monopoly school system, issuing a new report claiming Oklahoma leads the nation in cuts to education.

The problem is, the report is highly misleading. Therefore, it’s disappointing that Oklahoma’s so-called mainstream media haven’t given it a closer look.

Conveniently, the report compares only directly appropriated state funding for K-12 education between fiscal year 2008 (prior to the Great Recession) and FY 2015. This analysis is flawed, in that it fails to recognize all streams of state, local, and federal funding for K-12 education.

For example, it excludes the record amounts of dedicated state funding for teachers’ retirement.

Policymakers have significantly increased contributions to the Oklahoma Teachers Retirement System – from $128.9 million in FY 2003 to $300.5 million in FY 2013. That’s an increase of $171.6 million, or 133.17 percent.

Only in government would one argue that money for teacher retirement benefits doesn’t count as funding for education.

The report authors also assume that FY 2009 levels were established through a rational analysis of needs for education. In reality, pre-recession levels for both common education and higher education were set based on the insistence of Oklahoma Senate budget negotiators that for every dollar of the Brad Henry-Todd Hiett tax cuts there must be a dollar increase in education spending.

Bottom line: The truth is that Oklahoma’s education system has never had more money. According to the most up-to-date revenue information submitted by all school districts to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, both total and per-pupil funding have reached all-time highs.

Total funding for schools reached a record high of $8.2 billion for FY 2013. Per-pupil funding is $12,206 per pupil, some $400 more (per pupil) than was available in FY 2009. The problem is that not enough is making it to the classroom. Pouring more into an inefficient, high-overhead monopoly system is no solution.

Having a conversation about improving the quality of education in Oklahoma is important, but parents and children deserve that discussion with a side of honesty.

Michael Carnuccio

Former OCPA President

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