Oklahoma's average per-pupil funding ranks toward the bottom in 50-state comparisons. However, while the state formula attempts to equalize funding so districts with low local property values aren't disadvantaged compared with those with high valuations, that formula has its limits. Some districts spend far more per pupil than others, according to an Education Week analysis of federal data for all the nation's schools in the 2013 fiscal year. That analysis, highlighted recently by National Public Radio, also adjusted sums for regional differences in cost of living.
Nationally, the average U.S. school spent $11,841 per student. While many Oklahoma districts spent less, a surprising number spent more—sometimes far more. How do those schools measure up? The results are all over the map:
Keyes spent $19,700 per student. Yet on state report cards, the district's elementary school received an F last year.
Nashoba spent $14,809 per pupil. It received a C-plus (a significant improvement from F in 2014).
White Oak spent $17,316 per student. It was an F school in 2015.
Copan spent $17,744. It had a D-plus elementary and a C-minus high school last year. It also has a graduation rate of just 70 percent, according to data from Oklahoma Watch.
Taloga spent $22,405. The district's elementary and high school each received D-minus grades.
Deer Creek-Lamont in Grant County spent $16,834 per student. Its elementary school received a B and its high school received a C-plus.
The Yarbrough district spent $26,713 per student. Its elementary received a C and the high school received a B-minus last year.
Arnett spent $15,618 per student and has an A high school.
Battiest spent $11,284 (below the national average but higher than many Oklahoma schools) and has an A high school.
In short, Oklahoma schools with per-pupil spending well above the national average did both better and worse than schools that spent less. There's no consistent correlation between spending and outcomes.
One argument for increased school funding is that it allows for smaller class sizes. Most of the aforementioned schools are so small that officials must withhold district-level data on third-grade reading results or ACT scores because it could lead to identification of specific students. Thus, even the combination of much higher per-pupil spending and small class sizes didn't consistently generate dramatically improved outcomes.
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