The Canadian County Republican Party is taking the initiative to advance issues of fiscal reform to the bloated public education system. County Party Chair, Andrew Lopez announced the open letter to the legislature, in which the party echoed Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb's call for a 65% classroom spending efficiency. That means at least 65 cents of every dollar in the state department of Education needs to be for a classroom expense. Teacher pay, curriculum, classroom supplies, furnishings, and other education processes must be the nature of where the taxpayer's funds are going to.
David Cheney of Epic Charter Schools says he's glad to have that discussion. His teachers are paid more than $63,000 on average, and about 80% of his budget is directly a 'classroom expenditure'. Cheney says that the national average is 61% for school districts, but Oklahoma falls far behind on efficiency, only seeing 55% of funding going to classrooms.
But contrary to common perception, it isn't just because Oklahoma has too many tiny school districts. the 2 largest districts are some of the least efficient. On average, a school district of over 10,000 students will waste about $1000 dollars more per student on administrative costs.
Byron Schlomach of 1889 Institute (an Oklahoma thinktank focusing on fiscal policies) says that his research charts indicate the most efficient school districts seem to be the few dozen that have between 2000 to 5000 students.
Pryor Public schools is one of around 30 school districts which do not get any state funding, because their local taxes exceed the funding charts used by the state education department. This means that over 500 other school districts don't collect enough local taxes to self-fund their public schools (as our state constitution intended education funding to be acquired). The founders did set aside a school land trust from the federal lands within the state which were designed to enhance funding. But last year the land trust refused to disperse about $400 million of acquired dividends from the trust income. This left a big shortfall in funding for education and a school land trust fund holding on to about $1Billion dollars.
Rep. Tom Gann filed a bill to give all public common education teachers an annual $4000 stipend from that trust fund, but the House leadership refused a floor vote on the bill.