BY DAVID PERRYMAN
Fair Market Value is defined as an estimate of the market value of an item based upon what an informed, willing and unpressured buyer would likely pay to an informed, willing and unpressured seller in the market. Willing Oklahoma buyers meet willing Oklahoma sellers every day in thousands of different types of transactions, even into the education marketplace.
So what are Oklahomans willing to pay for a K-12 education? On one hand, we all agree that an educated citizenry is essential to the survival of our society, but on the other, it is entirely understandable that the value that we place on a child’s education is directly proportional to how close we are to the student.
It is interesting to note how this factors into the amount spent on a K-12 education in Oklahoma.
According to Governing Magazine and based on Census statistics updated in June 2015, Oklahoma spent $7,672 per pupil in 2013 inflation adjusted dollars to educate K-12 students. Theoretically, the value that Oklahoma was willing to place on a student’s education over a 13-year period is $99,736 [which includes the cost of books and transportation and a high percentage of hot meals] for the student to attain a high school diploma.
The website of Casady, a private school in Oklahoma City, states that its tuition is $18,990 per year for high school students. And based upon all Casady tuition rates, the value that Casady parents place on a Casady education is $215,790 paid over a 13-year period.
Similarly, according to its website, the tuition paid by parents who send their high school student to Heritage Hall, a private school in Oklahoma City, was $18,400 assigning the value of a Heritage Hall education to be $208,035.
However, an “Educational Support” surcharge would increase Heritage Hall’s tuition by $53,425 to $261,460, over 13 years, if the student had average to above average intelligence but needed tutoring due to a “diagnosed mild or moderate learning difference.”
Neither of the private school’s tuition included the cost of books, lunches or transportation.
No one should begrudge any parent’s decision to send their child to a private school or the value that the parent places on a private school education. Some people drive expensive cars and others do not. Some live in expensive homes in upscale neighborhoods and others do not. Those decisions are personal and their privilege.
The injustice comes when private school patrons seek to pull money away from public education by diverting tax dollars to subsidize their private school privilege. Up to $5 million per year of tax dollars are already being funneled to private schools in the form of tax credits authorized by SB 969 in 2011. Vouchers for more than $2.5 million in tax dollars have been issued to kids in private schools who are on Individualized Educational Plans.
This session, SB 609, SB 1280, SB 1401, HB 2003, HB 2949 [narrowly approved by a House committee on Feb. 15], and HB 3067 are among the many voucher, Educational Saving Account and tax credit bills that need to be watched closely.
Some or all of these bills may pass, but the public needs to decide what is truly fair when it comes to the value of our children.
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, serves District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives