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Reports from Policy Analysts

Oklahoma Budget Crisis

Submitted On: Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Analyst: Eodice, Michele/Univ of Oklahoma - Writing Center

NCTE Policy Analysts Report

State of Oklahoma

Anastasia Wickham, Ph.D. - P-12

Michele Eodice, Ph.D. - Higher Education

February 2017

Oklahoma General Revenue Failure Hits Education


  • Oklahoma State Board forced to revise budget after $50.2 million loss in revenue for Common Education

While other states are grappling with budget deficits, Oklahoma is facing a crisis. University of Oklahoma Senior Vice President and Provost, Kyle Harper, calls Oklahoma an “extreme outlier when it comes to the size of the hole in our budget” due to the state’s $868 million shortfall effecting higher education and P-12 schools.


Oklahoma’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Joy Hofmeister, stated: “This General Revenue failure, although not unexpected, poses a hardship to districts and schools already stretched thin as a result of ongoing budgetary challenges.” The BOE also confirmed a $39.1 million shortfall to another funding source for public schools, the Education Reform Revolving Fund, better known as the 1017 fund.  Oklahoma’s economy is dependent on the energy sector and trends in oil and gas have not been as positive as they need to be to cover shortfalls. 

Implications for HIGHER EDUCATION:


At the University of Oklahoma, the state’s flagship, Provost Harper explained the current situation: “In 2017, OU's Norman campus received $5 million less than was received in 1999, despite a 32 percent increase in enrollment and a 45 percent increase in degrees awarded. We are doing far more, with far less.”  Efforts to recruit more out-of-state students and a record-breaking retention rate this year are causes to celebrate, however most expenditures, including hires, are frozen.  

Those with English Education credentials continue to have 100% employment in Oklahoma. 

Implications for P-12:


  • Loss of teachers
    • Tulsa World article on losing about 30 percent of teachers, which leads to high costs (teacher retention)
    • #1 reason cited: teacher pay
    • A Tulsa Public Schools analysis found it takes 18 years for a teacher in Tulsa to reach the accepted living wage standard in Tulsa, which is $43,471 a year.


  • Unmet student need: “These budget cuts will further hobble our state’s ability to meet the needs of children and educate our students. It’s onerous news for schools as they have now absorbed $84.5 million in unexpected cuts to education.”  In general, Oklahoma has depended on the energy sector to fill gaps in the state budget, yet recent trends in oil and gas have not been strong.

“Oklahomans also should be concerned about trends in education indicators.” The state saw recent changes in national rankings:

  • 1st to 4th in access to preschool programs,
  • 17th to 46th in overall education quality,
  • 42nd to 48th in average teacher pay, and
  • 46th to 49th in expenditures per student.

It seems important to note that, according to Oklahoma Watch, Betsy DeVos, newly appointed Education Secretary, has given millions in campaign contributions to politicians across the country. Some of that money trickled into Oklahoma, often to defeat “teachers’ caucus” candidates.


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