Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Enrollment numbers affect per-pupil funding

In recent comments on this year's state budget agreement, Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, makes an important observation. As Nate Robson of Oklahoma Watch reported, "Hime said flat funding means less money will make it into the K-12 classroom because districts' fixed operational costs are going up. If the state sees another large bump in new students, that means there will be less money per student" [emphasis added].

In other words, the enrollment count affects per-student funding. If you have more students, that's less money per student. If you have fewer students, that's more money per student.

That's something to keep in mind when school-choice foes tell you that thousands of kids will leave the public school system if education savings accounts are enacted.


State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister reminds us that "when you have a flat number and a growing student population it will ultimately mean fewer dollars per student." She doesn't deny that Oklahoma education funding is at an all-time high, but again mentions the growing student population.

Reporters for Oklahoma Watch acknowledge that enrollment numbers affect per-pupil spending: "Oklahoma City Public Schools expects to add up to 1,000 students next school year, diluting its per-pupil revenue."

Former state Rep. Wallace Collins, the outgoing chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, also seems to acknowledge as much, saying that "a flat appropriation is, in reality, a cut given the regular inflation of other expenses, increases in requirements, and the more than 40,000 student increase in enrollment."

Sean Murphy of the Associated Press reports that "many education supporters say a standstill budget amounts to a cut because of rising fixed costs and an increased number of students."

The Tulsa World reports that "the lack of additional dollars for common education translates into a budget cut because of an increase in students and overall costs, [House Minority Leader Scott] Inman said."

Economist John Merrifield discusses the fixed-costs fallacy.

Oklahoma City Public Schools, "which is operating about 60 percent of capacity, is facing $11 million in cuts to state aid over the next two years based on projected enrollment declines," The Oklahoman reports

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