Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication

Gaylord News

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication

Gaylord News

Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication

Gaylord News

Large school districts have less despite spending more

By Elizabeth Sims and Luke Schumacher, [UNFILTERED] reporters

Graphics by Elizabeth Sims


A map of the instructional expenditures per student by district. Click here for full-screen map.


School districts in the metropolitan areas of Oklahoma – specifically, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Moore and Edmond – have the highest total instructional expenditures but spend far less per student than other districts with lower revenue, according to an [UNFILTERED] data investigation.

The [UNFILTERED] investigation focused on instructional expenditures. Instruction expenditures include activities directly associated with the interaction between teachers and students, including teacher salaries and benefits, supplies (such as textbooks), and purchased instructional services, according to public school district fiscal data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Local sources of funding, like bonds, do not go as far in larger districts as they do in some of the smaller school districts in the state. Urban school districts are more dependent on state funding, according to Christy Watson, the director of communications and marketing at the Oklahoma State School Boards Association.

“For urban districts, state aid is not as stable, so it is more difficult to provide services,” Watson said.

Those participating in the Oklahoma teacher walkout have emphasized increasing education funding to meet the needs of teachers and students across the state.

During the 2013-14 school year, Oklahoma City Public Schools spent $204,210,000 on instruction – the most in the state. Tulsa had the second highest total instruction expenditures at just under $175,000,000.

While these districts spend the most money on instruction as a whole, they are nowhere near the top in terms of spending per student. As of 2013-14, Oklahoma City Public Schools had a student population of almost 41,000, but spent just shy of $5,000 per student on instructional expenditures. Again, Tulsa trailed just behind, spending just over $4,300 on each of its 39,455 students.

A graph of expenditures per student by select districts. Click here for full-screen map.


By comparison, four districts (Taloga, Yarbrough, Reydon and Keyes) located near the Oklahoma panhandle spent nearly double that amount.

Taloga spends the most at about $10,500 per student, despite its total instructional expenditure of $734,000. With a student population of 109 students between two schools at the end of the 2013-14 school year, there was more money available to spend on each student.

Yarbrough is the second highest, spending just shy of $10,000 on each of its 91 students. It spent roughly $860,000 in total instructional expenditures.

We usually have a bond, and our community supports that,” said Verlena Furr, Yarbrough Public Schools treasurer. “Money comes in from school land being leased to the state and/or people, and it’s divided on a monthly basis.”

Oklahoma lawmakers approved a $6,100 teacher pay raise at the end of March 2018.

While the increased salary should help make Oklahoma schools more competitive in keeping quality educators around longer, the money for the pay raise will either come from state or local funding, depending on the district’s primary source of revenue, according to Watson.

Either way, the districts are expected to implement the increase.

Though walkout participants insist they want more than just an increase in teacher pay, the rest of the education funding depends on the decisions and actions of state legislators – and the response of the students, teachers and parents who have crowded into and around the Oklahoma State Capitol for nearly two weeks.

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