School administrators' midyear adjustment griping mostly unwarranted

The Oklahoman Editorial Modified: January 20, 2013 at 1:18 am •  Published: January 20, 2013

AS sure as night follows day, midyear adjustments to school districts' funding have left some administrators unhappy. For the most part, their griping is unwarranted.

The state's funding formula has a simple premise: If student enrollment increases, so does state funding at a district. If enrollment declines, so does state funding. Money follows the child, with a little more cash allocated for low-income students and those who use English as a second language, etc.

Allocations are adjusted midyear as firm enrollment numbers are established. There's nothing ominous about the process. But that hasn't stopped some school officials from suggesting otherwise. In particular, several were upset that virtual charter schools (which are public schools) get state funding.

Trish Williams, chief financial officer at Tulsa Public Schools, notes the financial pie “is only so big.” But even without the handful of virtual charter schools, that pie would still be divided among more than 500 districts. Tulsa loses funds when students transfer to neighboring brick-and-mortar districts. Why should the process be different for those getting a public education through a virtual school option?

Donna Campo, superintendent at Liberty, argues virtual schools should get less state aid because they don't have the same infrastructure expenses as traditional schools. But school buildings are locally funded with property tax. Not one district in Oklahoma gets state appropriations for that purpose. Campo's complaint is without merit. If anyone is at a funding disadvantage, it's charter schools operating without local property tax support, not their traditional counterparts.

Williams referred ominously to online charter schools as “for-profit entities.” Bixby Superintendent Kyle Wood described online schooling as “big business.” But Oklahoma's brick-and-mortar schools expend billions annually. That's not big business? Williams, Wood and other administrators don't volunteer their time. Many superintendents have a six-figure income; some are paid more than the governor.

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