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Published 10/21/2019 | 1 min 47 seconds
By the HRW
OKLAHOMA — Oklahoma schools are underfunded; Oklahoma teacher pay ranked ahead of only Mississippi and South Dakota in 2016;20 percent of the state’s schools were reduced to four-day weeks in 2018 due to budget cuts. The Tulsa schools lost 628 teachers in the 2016-2017 school year, due in large part to low salaries. Schools lack adequate funding for textbooks and repairs.
Over the past decade, Oklahoma schools have lost 30 percent of their funding, adjusting for inflation. The state legislature cannot raise taxes without a three-quarters majority, making it extremely difficult to raise revenue through taxation.
Inadequate school funding negatively impacts low-income schools much more than those with wealthier student populations. Local schools raise money from their communities and benefit from parents contributing for supplies, sports, music programs, and other activities to enrich the lives of students. Schools in very low-income communities, such as North Tulsa, lack this alternative source of income.
Along with segregated neighborhoods come segregated schools. The Tulsa area has 12 schools with greater than 75 percent black enrollment, 19 schools with greater than 50 percent black enrollment, mostly in the city of Tulsa, and 71 schools, almost all in suburban school districts, with less than 6 percent black enrollment.
The percentage of students eligible for free and reduced school lunches is often used as a proxy for the percentage of its students living in poverty. The average black student in Tulsa public schools attends a school where over 81 percent of students are eligible for free and reduced school lunch, as compared to 77 percent for the average Latino student and 55 percent for the average white student.
High poverty schools have much greater rates of absenteeism and students are more likely to leave after one year than are students at predominantly white lower-poverty schools. Turnover and interruption in attendance in a school make it difficult for all students to learn and reflect the stresses of poverty that greatly impact scholastic achievement, including poor health, hunger, and exposure to crime and violence.
Black students receive school suspensions at a rate 2.5 times greater than white students, and at a significantly greater rate than Latino students. Despite recent policy changes to de-emphasize removing children from school, which have reduced overall suspensions, there remain significant differences in suspension, dropout, and mobility rates based on race and wealth.
These educational deficiencies, all problems in Tulsa’s under-resourced low-income public schools, are likely contributors to crime, as young people who fail in school have fewer economic opportunities, are more likely to be unemployed, lack legal options for survival, and have to deal with other stresses that accompany poverty.
To read more on the case study in the Human Rights Report click here.