For first time, Okla. reports per-pupil spending by school

BY JENNIFER PALMER
Oklahoma Watch
05/28/2020 09:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Children at a Tulsa elementary school line up for a school meal. WHITNEY BRYEN/OKLAHOMA WATCH
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that produces in-depth and investigative stories on important issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to oklahomawatch.org. COURTESY
The public can now see the dollar amount each school spent educating a child, an important metric for stakeholders for determining equitable funding.

Per-pupil funding has now been added to each school’s state report card. It’s newly required under federal law and Oklahoma is one of about 30 states that has begun displaying the data available for the 2018-19 school year.

Previously, only district-level data on per-pupil spending was available. The school-level data could unmask inequities within districts.

Click here to view the data.

Schools arrive at the dollar amount by adding the total expenditures for a school, plus their share of any district-wide or shared expenditures, and dividing by the number of students. It’s a fairer way to compare schools than total funding because it factors in the size of the school. It counts all spending, regardless of whether the funds came from federal, state or local dollars, and it includes spending on any renovations or new buildings.

Ideally, schools with higher needs should be spending more, said Marguerite Roza, director of the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University.

“We think it’s really important data,” she said. “There’s been a big focus on performance, but without the spending context, we’re missing part of the story.”

Schools that spend the most are often working with special populations, such as at-risk students or incarcerated youth; are very small schools, or are schools with higher local property wealth.

For 2018-19, Oklahoma’s statewide average per-pupil spending was $8,778. Total enrollment that year was nearly 700,000.

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