How Do We Know Teachers Need A Raise If We Don't Do Our Homework?

In case you've been under a rock and haven't learned about the West Virginia teachers who have apparently inspired teacher walkouts in Arizona, Kentucky and Oklahoma, I thought it important to make sure anyone who wanted to do more than hear talking points and rhetoric have direct access to OSDE data.

In my next few blogs, I'm going to try and hit some of the talking points pushed by OEA (Oklahoma Education Association - the state arm of the National Teachers Association (NEA) - the UNION pushing the walkout), doing the calculations right in front of you and providing links to check my figures. I want to make sure readers have direct access to some of the more important links I'll be using for fact checking, however, so all this is public.

Before I get into any of this, however, I just want to say - HOW IN THE HECK COULD ANY CITIZEN/TAXPAYER (as opposed to a forensic auditor) KNOW WHAT ANY OF THESE NUMBERS MEAN?

Seriously. There are so many different funding descriptions and sources and so many other itemized deductions listed on the OSDE website and in their budget calculations, it's almost insanely difficult to figure out if OEA is comparing apples to apples, using meaningful data or just picking numbers that sound good. Do THEY even know? Of course none of the memes or their background information have any actual calculations and/or links to the sources of their figures and that ALONE should ring some alarm bells. Are taxpayers simply to believe everything a teacher's union tells them? Not this taxpayer!

To illustrate my point, recently at the Growth and Opportunity Summit in Tulsa (February 24th), I listed to former Representative Jason Nelson give a talk on the School Funding Formula. I've embedded it below and here is the url. Please watch this! It is unbelievable how complicated this formula actually is. So here are the $4.5 billion dollar question - "If the funding formula is this complicated, how can you understand it? If you can't understand it, how can you explain it? If you can't explain it, why do taxpayers have to fund it?"


There are way too many terms that are not being defined and that can't be compared, but are being compared anyway. For example look at the terms below.

Average Daily Attendance (ADA) = the average number of pupils in attendance during the school year. ADA is calculated by dividing the sum of the pupil's total days present by the number of days taught.

This is the smallest of all the calculations.

Average Daily Membership (ADM) is the average number of pupils present and absent in a school district during a school year. ADM is calculated by dividing the sum of the pupil's total days present and total days absent by the number of days taught.

This is automatically a larger number because it contains all the days the students SHOULD have been in class, not actually was. I'm not even sure why this calculation exists. If a kid isn't in school, you're not teaching him, but then if he's just absent, you still have to provide the books, the building - etc.

Weighted Average Daily Membership (WADM) = the sum of the weighted pupil grade level calculation, the weighted pupil category calculation, the weighted district calculation and weighted teacher experience and degree calculation.

What? Weighted for what? It's never explained. Why, when you don't explain numbers, do we have to just automatically believe any figures derived from these numbers?

Enrollment = a one-day snapshot of students enrolled on October 1 of each year.

This is the only one that seems to make some kind of sense outside ADA. The other two seem like figure-fudgers.


There are all kinds of names being bandied about for expenses and revenue sources. Here's the bottom line:

There are SIX ways Oklahomans pay for Public Education. Here are the breakdowns from the 2017 budget:

  1. General Revenue (GR)
  2. Common Ed Technology Fund
  3. Mineral Leasing Fund
  4. OK Lottery Trust Fund
  5. Rainy Day Fund
  6. Education Reform Revolving Fund (1017funds)
There are SEVEN Sources of State Formula Revenue from the 2017 budget request - I'm ASSUMING what is referred to as the GR.

  1. Appropriations
  2. Motor Vehicle (taxes)
  3. School Land (these are the funds managed by the Commissioners of the Land Office)
  4. Rural Electrification Association (REA taxes - if you use rural electricity, you are taxed to provide money for schools. This is supposed to be in stead of property tax deductions.)
  5. Ad Valorem Tax (Property taxes - the kind where the state TAKES your property if you don't pay.)
  6. County 4-Mill (here is the link on the website)
  7. Gross Production (here is the link on the website)
After much searching, I found a document that explains all of these. It is the "Sources of Revenue State Aid Formula Penalties/Adjustments, Financial Services Division, State Aid Section, Revised October 2017".  All those in RED are DEDICATED funds = The principal sources of state-dedicated revenues are established in law and are very rarely changed by the legislature.
Apparently state appropriation funding includes these categories. They can change as the legislature debates common education funding:
  • ACE Technology
  • Alternative and High Challenge Education
  • Driver Education
  • Flexible Benefit Allowance– Certified/Support    
  • Foundation and Salary Incentive Aid
  • School Consolidation Assistance Fund School Lunch – State Matching
  • National Board Certified Bonus

If OEA talks about Appropriations being down, that means NOTHING if all other revenue sources are increased!

Every school district pays a portion of their teacher's retirement based on a formula. THIS IS A BENEFIT. The employees portion of their retirement MAY or MAY NOT be included in the state MINIMUM PAY scale - it depends upon the district. The state STILL picks up the rest and this benefit and it IS included in the MINIMUM PAY SCALE.
The state says this: "Teachers in the public schools of Oklahoma shall receive in salary and/or fringe benefits not less than the amount specified in the following schedule. When determining minimum salary, “fringe benefits” shall mean only the employee's share of retirement, if paid by the district."
Teachers and support staff are provided a Flexible Benefit Allowance. It is a BENEFIT paid for by taxpayers. It IS included in the state MINIMUM PAY scale. It can also change depending upon how the state negotiates their contracts for health care. Here's what it says in the Sources of Revenue...document:
The purpose of the Flexible Benefit Allowance (FBA) is to furnish school district employees with choices about insurance benefits or cash compensation. Flexible benefit allowance means amounts credited by the school district for each school district employee for the purpose of benefits under the cafeteria plan. For the 2017-18 school year, the FBA for certified personnel taking insurance with the district will be equal to 100 percent (100%) of the HealthChoice (Hi) option; but, for certified employee’s not taking insurance, the “In Lieu of FBA” amount is $69.71 a month. The FBA for full-time support employees taking insurance with the district will be equal to 100 percent (100%) of the HealthChoice (Hi) option; but, for full-time support employees not taking insurance, the “In Lieu of FBA” amount is $189.69 a month. The 2017-18 appropriation for certified staff exceeded $299 million; the appropriation for support staff exceeded $163 million.

2016 State Department of Education Budget

2017 State Department of Education Budget

2018 State Department Draft Budget Request

Historical Funding Data (there are no budgets on the website I can find prior to 2016 other than what data is stored here)

2017 Budget Request (slide presentation - data in pictorial form)

2018 Budget Request (slide presentation - data in pictorial form)

This is the last audit done - or at least posted to the OSDE website - it is from 2015 and includes numerous concerns regarding the ways in which federal dollars are accounted for and spent.

Salary schedules for Oklahoma teachers - This is important to actually look through. SOME schools pay the MINIMUM scheduled salary, MANY pay OVER that minimum and eve provide the employees portion of their teacher retirement.

State Public School Expenditures and Revenues 2005-2017

Per Pupil Calculations 2009-2017

US Census Data for Oklahoma

Living Wage Calculator

Teacher's Retirement Calculations

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