- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma’s per-student education funding from the Legislature is more than 23 percent below where it was in 2008, a wider gap than any other state, according to a new study released Thursday.

Oklahoma is among at least 30 states that are providing less per-pupil funding for grades K-12 now than before the start of the recession, the report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows.

The study shows Oklahoma is spending about $857 less per student than it did in 2008.

“At a time when the nation is trying to produce workers with the skills to master new technologies and adapt to the complexities of a global economy, states should be investing more - not less - to ensure our kids get a strong education,” said Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research for the nonpartisan think tank and co-author of the report.

But Alex Weintz, a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin, noted the study does not take into account increases in non-legislative sources of funding, such as property taxes or appropriations from the state agency that manages oil and gas leases on public lands. He also pointed out the Oklahoma Legislature appropriated record amounts of money into schools in 2008 before the recession forced huge state-government cutbacks.

While overall appropriations to education have increased over the last two years, Oklahoma’s per-pupil spending has declined because of an increase in the number of students, Weintz said.

“Our economy is now growing after several long years of recession,” Fallin said in a statement. “As our revenue grows, I am absolutely committed to continuing to build on the recent funding gains we have made in our schools.

“Specifically, I would like to see money set aside for teacher pay raises to help us attract and retain the best teachers in our classrooms.”

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