The Roundup

Public Education in Oklahoma: Making the Grade?

• By

Posted 05.22.12

UPDATE: This story was updated at 10:20 a.m. Friday, May 25.

Eight Oklahoma public high schools made it to Newsweek’s list of the best 1,000 in the nation. They are, listed by rank:

  • 35. Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics in Oklahoma City
  • 39. Classen School of Advanced Studies in Oklahoma City
  • 119. Harding Charter Preparatory in Oklahoma City
  • 124. Booker T. Washington in Tulsa
  • 615. Dove Science Academy in Tulsa
  • 696. Edmond Memorial in Edmond
  • 786. Norman High School in Norman
  • 878. Norman North in Norman

Newsweek said it based its list on six factors: graduation rate, college matriculation rate, AP/IB/AICE tests taken per student, average SAT/ACT scores, average AP/IB/AICE scores, and AP courses offered per student.

Eight Oklahoma high schools made Newsweek's top 1,000 list.

Except for the last three, which are open enrollment, the schools listed are either selective, magnet, or charter schools, meaning they control student population and class size by requiring certain admissions standards.

UPDATE: Charter schools do not have selective enrollment. Students are admitted first according to their zoning and then, if that exceeds the school’s capacity, by lottery. We apologize for the error.

Of the eight schools listed, five of them graduate 100 percent of students, and three of them send 100 percent of graduates to college. Statewide, Oklahoma high schools only graduate, on average, 70 percent of students, ranking 34th nationally.

Oklahoma notoriously ranks 49th in per-pupil spending on public education, which has put the topic in the forefront of citizen concern, especially as government officials try to settle on a budget for 2013. Yesterday, legislators announced a state budget agreement, which Gov. Mary Fallin’s office said “includes targeted funding increases for core services”—it’s just that public education isn’t one of them.

Graph courtesy the Oklahoma Policy Institute.

The budget includes flat funding for education, despite Superintendent Janet Barresi’s request for an increase of $78.2 million in state aid. According to a graph produced by the Oklahoma Policy Institute, state funding for public education has declined by $234 million, or 11.4 percent, since fiscal year 2008, despite enrollment increases of 19,430 students. “This equates to a 15 percent decrease in state support per student, from $3,194 to $2,724,” OK Policy’s researchers wrote. “In addition, since the beginning of 2008, inflation has boosted the overall costs of goods and services by 9 percent.”

… (P)arents and educators had urged the Legislature to boost state aid funding by $50 million to avert further teacher layoffs and loss of programs. The failure to provide any additional money to support schools despite allocating $33 million for cuts to the top income rate, is sure to be regarded by many as a grave instance of misplaced priorities.

The state legislature’s refusal to increase funding for public schools has educators livid. From the Tulsa World:

“This is appalling. When state revenues are up, why can’t we put some back (into the education budget)?” Tulsa Superintendent Keith Ballard said Monday evening. “I didn’t see any clamoring for a tax cut. I guess it makes good campaign flyer material, but they passed over children who want to be in band. It’s very disingenuous for the governor to say we will provide core services—this is not providing core services.”

Ballard pledged to do everything he could to raise private funds since the Jenks school district announced last week that it had success in doing so to preserve some teacher jobs. Still, TPS officials say class sizes will be up across the district, with Memorial High School likely to have 38-40 students in each. Webster High School may lose its band along with the elimination of its band director’s position.

Holly Wall, News Editor