NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 11, 2005

Oklahoma government officials routinely understate the cost of public education because of ineffective school accounting systems, says the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA).

The main reason is that unlike private-sector businesses, the government's school accounting systems exclude many significant costs. Indeed, underestimating costs deceives taxpayers, misleads government officials who initiate legislation and deprives students of educational financial equity, says OCPA.

The real cost of Oklahoma's public education system is substantially higher than what the official government reports reveal:

  • In the budget book of Gov. Brad Henry, local and county revenues for schools in 2003 totaled $765 million, but the federal government's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) puts the figure at nearly double that amount -- $1.36 billion.
  • Using NCES data, per-pupil expenditures for 2003 increase from $6,429 to $7,194.
  • But if generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) are used, the rate jumps to $11,250.

GAAP should be used because it gives a much more accurate picture of the costs of education by including previously omitted benefits, says OCPA.

Source: Steven J. Anderson and Brandon Dutcher, "Education in Oklahoma: The Real Costs," Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, August 2005.


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