The U.S. Department of Education projects Oklahoma’s pre-K through 12th-grade student enrollment will grow 6 percent over the next decade, adding an additional 41,000 students to the financially-strained public school system.
The increase is a slight slowdown from the 9-percent hike the state’s public school system experienced over the past decade, The Oklahoman reported.
Enrollment is important to funding the state’s schools because they rely on money that’s dispersed through the state aid formula on a per student basis.
Since 2008, Oklahoma has cut per-student spending by more than any other state in the nation, according to analyses from groups, including the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The state’s per-student spending average of nearly $8,000 combines all local, state and federal sources. It’s one of the lowest rates in the nation.
Education leaders have pushed for the return to pre-2008 funding levels. Growing student enrollment will also help raise funding.
“These projections pose a challenge to an already insufficiently funded system,” said Joy Hofmeister, Oklahoma’s state schools superintendent. “With enrollment numbers steadily growing and a population becoming increasingly diverse, our public education system is being stretched thin.”
Most state-level growth is due to demographic changes, according to an analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics.
Oklahoma’s enrollment growth has been mostly driven by Hispanic students, a population that has grown by nearly 90 percent over the past 10 years with an additional 56,000 students.