Officials: School enrollment continues to grow despite budget crunch
OKLAHOMA CITY – While many school districts are hoping for more funding this next year, it seems that teachers will be teaching more students.
Budget cuts over the past several years have negatively impacted numerous state agencies, including the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
“I think it is unacceptable that we have four-day school weeks for our children. You’ve heard me say this but I have visited with major companies looking at moving jobs to our state and I’ve heard from several of them that tell me, ‘Governor, your state’s so poor you only fund schools for four days a week. How can I convince my employers, my businesses to want to come to your state when you won’t fund your schools? And I can’t find an educated, quality, skilled workforce if your people are uneducated in your state,” Gov. Fallin said in May.
In July, Oklahoma City district leaders told NewsChannel 4 that school districts across the state are being forced to come up with their own money to pay for things like text books.
Over the past two years, officials say the budget for Oklahoma City Public Schools has been cut by over $30 million.
“We canceled textbook purchases, made cuts to arts, athletics [and] instructional materials from the school budgets. It devastated our schools,”Oklahoma City Public Schools Superintendent Aurora Lora told News 4 in August.
Despite having less money in the budget, the Oklahoma State Department of Education says that student enrollment continues to rise.
Officials say 694,816 students were enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade at the start of the school year, which is about 1,000 more than last year.
“Once again, Oklahoma schools are educating more students than ever before with few new resources,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said. “Funding has not kept pace with the steady rise in enrollment over the past decade, the growing diversity of Oklahoma’s student population or the decrease of trained educators entering the profession. We will continue to advocate for teacher pay raises and adequate funding levels to meet the needs of all Oklahoma schoolchildren.”
Among the largest districts in the state, officials say Edmond had the greatest year-to-year growth, followed by Moore and Norman.