State funding calculation error could hurt school districts

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OKLAHOMA CITY - A state aid calculation error, dating back 22 years, could result in several school districts losing money next year once the error is corrected.

On Thursday, Joel Robison, Chief of Staff for the Oklahoma State Department of Education said they were only recently made aware of a 1992 law that was not being followed.

Now, state funding dollars are about to move from one district to another, which will benefit some, while hurting others.

"So obviously, if some districts, as a result of this change, receive a larger slice of this pie, other school districts will necessarily receive a smaller slice," Robison said.

That law was supposed to put a cap on how much state funding a district would receive.

Instead, districts that didn't receive a lot of money from property taxes were getting more money from the state than they should have been.

Districts that did receive a lot of property tax revenue were subsequently getting less money from the state than they should have been - all in an effort to be fair.

"The state aid formula is designed to balance local revenues versus state revenues," Robison said, "so you don't have rich schools versus poor schools."

But once the calculation error is corrected next month, many smaller school districts could receive far less money from the state than they were expecting.

"Anytime you lose money, it's detrimental," Steven Crawford, Executive Director of the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration, said. "But the question is, do we the follow the law, or do we not follow the law?"

Crawford said schools won't know whether their budget is going up or down until the Oklahoma Tax Commission figures out the legal state aid formula around mid-January.

"It all depends on how much ad valorem growth (property tax) we have this year," Crawford said, "whether (school districts) even notice a dip or not."

Approximately $18 million could be redistributed by the time the old law's funding calculation is figured out.

The Oklahoma City Public Schools district released a statement Thursday.

Scott Randall, OKCPS Chief Financial Officer, said "It is important that the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the Oklahoma Tax Commission follow the state law and correctly calculate school funding. This issue affects a large number of school districts in our state and for Oklahoma City Public Schools; it means approximately a $2 million increase in funds that will go directly to benefit the students in our district. We look forward to working closely with both agencies to correct the mid-year adjustments and better serve students."

 

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