The interim was loaded with many meetings and events. Last month, the Legislative Assembly hosted the Southern Legislative Conference in Oklahoma City, welcoming more than 1,400 legislators and staff from 14 other states to come and work on policy issues important to our Southern region. I also spoke to superintendents at the Career Tech Summer Conference in Tulsa on Tuesday about TIFs (Tax Increase Funding), future funding, workforce development and the future direction of the our state’s Career Tech system. It was a great event, and I received wonderful comments and feedback.
Last week, the Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) informed our oversight committee of its review of the allocation of public funds for K-12 public education. As Chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education and Vice Chair of the Education Committee, much of my legislative work is focused on improving our public education system and ensuring that our students receive the highest quality of education possible, so this meeting was of particular interest to me.
Their report included four conclusions and recommendations for improvement. They believe that the state funding formula does not take into account the needs of today’s students. Their assessment covered grade weightings, bilingual weight, and economically disadvantaged weight.
They also found that despite increased investment in common education, the proportion spent on student instruction remained stable. They looked at instructional vs. non-educational expenses, and there was a discussion of what is or isn’t considered an “instructional expense.”
Next, LOFT said the current governance of school finances limits accountability for education spending and looked at Oklahoma’s Cost Accounting System (OCAS), where school districts report their spending.
Finally, they believe that the Legislative Assembly’s ability to assess education investments and outcomes is hampered by the limited provision of comprehensive data. The data is available, but they want it all combined and provided to the Legislative Assembly in an easy-to-understand format.
They recommended that the State Department of Education (SDE) expand the scope of OCAS and other financial reviews to identify non-compliance and expand the sample size selected for non-compliance review. automated. They are expected to collaborate with the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability (OEQA) to compile and contextualize data regarding Oklahoma students‘ academic performance and trends, as well as provide an annual update on overall standings and student achievement. assessment of students and the public education system with the department’s annual report. budget request. Finally, LOFT would like SDE to periodically review the state aid funding formula and report recommended changes to the Legislative Assembly.
I would like to note that SDE has refuted some of the findings, and I will review the full 118-page report and information from SDE in the coming weeks in preparation for the next session. You can also read the initial report on http://www2.okloft.gov/Reports/PublicEducationFunding_Report.pdf. We should keep in mind that LOFT’s findings are only the opinions of tax analysts to help guide us when making fiscal and policy decisions. In the coming weeks, I will also be meeting with local districts, parents, and fellow legislators to discuss how we can better serve Oklahoma students.
In closing, I would like to remind everyone to mark their calendars and make sure to vote on Tuesday August 23rd. Voting is one of our greatest freedoms and rights. Unfortunately, attendance continues to drop, so I hope you’ll take a few minutes out of your day and raise your voice.
Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, is the state senator for District 9. To reach him on Capitol Hill, call (405) 521-5533 or email [email protected]