OKLAHOMA CITY — 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.


Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com