The public schools enroll 682,000 students: 52% White, 15% American Indian, 15% Latino, and 9% African American, with 61% living in poverty and 7% learning English. The State spends $7,914 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“Provisions shall be made for the establishment and maintenance of a system of public schools, which shall be open to all the children of the state and free from sectarian control.” Okla. Const. art. I, § 5.
“The Legislature shall establish and maintain a system of free public schools wherein all the children of the State may be educated.” Okla. Const. art. XIII, § 1.
“The Legislature shall, by appropriate legislation, raise and appropriate funds for the annual support of the common schools of the State to the extent of forty-two ($42.00) dollars per capita based on total state-wide enrollment for the preceding school year. Such moneys shall be allocated to the various school districts in the manner and by a distributing agency to be designated by the Legislature; provided that nothing herein shall be construed as limiting any particular school district to the per capita amount specified herein, but the amount of state funds to which any school district may be entitled shall be determined by the distributing agency upon terms and conditions specified by the Legislature, and provided further that such funds shall be in addition to apportionments from the permanent school fund created by Article XI, Section 2, hereof.” Okla. Const. art. XIII, § 1a.
In 1924, in Miller v. Childers, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held that the constitutional duty to “‘establish and maintain a system of free public schools wherein all the children of the state may be educated’ implies an efficient and sufficient system, with competent teachers, necessary general facilities, and school terms of such duration as may be necessary to properly implant in the minds of our youth such degree of learning that when the work is done they may be educated young men and women.” The Court wrote that the system should provide “equal rights and privileges to all its youth to obtain such mental and moral training as will make them useful citizens in our great commonwealth.”
In 1947, the Oklahoma Supreme Court held in School District No. 25 of Woods County v. Hodge that State Aid was “intended to aid in assuring a minimum educational program for all children of the state” and was designed “to insure uniformity of opportunity to all children of the state to receive at least the degree of instruction embraced by the minimum program.”
In 1987, in Fair School Finance Council of Oklahoma v. State, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the State system of school funding, ruling that, although the constitution guarantees the right to a basic, adequate education, State funds do not have to be allocated on an equal per-pupil basis, and the Legislature has discretion to decide how to distribute State funds.
In 2007, in Oklahoma Education Association, et al. v. State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Supreme Court found plaintiffs’ challenge to the State’s school funding system a non-justiciable political question.