EDUCATION dollars in Oklahoma might go a little further if there weren't so many public school districts and college campuses in our state. That's not us saying this. David Boren thinks it's possible, too.
Boren, president of the University of Oklahoma, is a champion of education and has serious concerns about what will happen if the Legislature's appropriations to higher ed continue to slide as they have over the past many years. “We are doing something that needs to be on the front burner,” he told state regents last week.
Boren said OU had trimmed $5.4 million from its books this year and still was left with an $8.5 million budget gap, necessitating a 3 percent increase in tuition for in-state students and a 5 percent jump for nonresident students.
If state support continues to fall, he said, “the cost will have to be shifted to students and their families. The doors will be closed to students from impoverished families. We are going to make it more and more difficult to create new jobs. I think it's important that the people of Oklahoma understand, is 49th good enough?”
He was referring to Oklahoma's national ranking in per-pupil spending for common education. Some studies have placed our state next-to-last on that list; recent figures from the Census Bureau have us 46th. These rankings drive the incessant push in academic circles for ever more funding for schools.
Boren clearly wants more, too, although to his credit he helped lead the successful fight in 2010 against an effort to amend the state constitution to ensure that Oklahoma common education be funded at the six-state regional average.
He realizes that in some cases, there may be other ways to skin this funding cat.
At OU, Boren told the regents, “We need to continue to be more cost-effective,” and afterward he spoke words that make many in the establishment uncomfortable when he discussed the need to pursue reforms in common and higher education.