NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

LET THE SUN SHINE IN

March 4, 2009

Substantially underestimated costs related to education deceive the taxpaying public, mislead government officials who initiate legislation and deprive students of educational financial equity, says Steve Anderson, an Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs research fellow and a Certified Public Accountant.

One doesn't have to look too hard to find these additional expenditures in Oklahoma's public K-12 education system, says Anderson.

Debt Service:

  • The Oklahoma State Department of Education (SDE)'s report on debt service shows General Fund expenditures of only $287,766 for all the school districts in the state.
  • But in reality, debt service for the Tulsa Public Schools alone was $81,543,927 for the latest year available!
  • A total estimate of debt service left off the books is difficult to make, however, a conservative would be about $300 million statewide.

CareerTech:

  • More than $136 million in direct instructional costs are hidden in Oklahoma's CareerTech programs.
  • In FY-2008, more than 314,000 students in grades 6 through 12 enrolled in at least one program at Oklahoma's technology centers.
  • That's a large number -- it's the equivalent of roughly half the K-12 student population in Oklahoma's regular public schools.
  • Yet none of these CareerTech instructional costs are included in the "official" per-pupil average that is reported to the Oklahoma taxpayer.

Retirement Benefits:

  • Clearly, retirement benefits on behalf of teachers and support personnel are part of the costs of operating the public schools, but for some reason, the costs (employer contributions, agency costs, etc.) of the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) are not included in the "official" per-pupil spending numbers.
  • Moreover, hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes paid directly to TRS are not included in the per-pupil numbers.
  • Additionally, TRS's General Motors-type defined-benefit plan typically adds debt -- debt that would of course appear on the financial statement of any private school-which isn't included in the per-pupil numbers.
  • This debt will be paid by future generations of Oklahomans; it's called the Unfunded Accrued Actuarial Liability (UAAL), and in FY-2007 it was $7.6 billion.

This is only a partial list of the "substantially underestimated costs" billed to Oklahoma's taxpayers.  In the end, taxpayers spent more than $6.5 billion in FY-2007 on Oklahoma's public K-12 education system.  That's $10,942.11 per pupil, says Anderson.

Source: Steve Anderson, "Let the Sun Shine In," Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, February 01, 2009.

 

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