From 2001 to 2010, the population of the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Statistical Area (OKC MSA) grew by 150,000. From 2010 to 2019, the population of the OKC MSA grew by almost exactly the same number of people, 150,000. In other words, there has been a steady increase in the population in and around OKC over the past 20 years. Year-to-year, the data show not even a temporary drop. Nevertheless, the population of Canadian County, part of the OKC MSA, has seen a faster rate of increase in population. To illustrate, the Piedmont school district’s enrollment in October of 2014 was 3,417; by 2019, it was 4,535, a 33% increase. During that same time, however, the OKC school district’s enrollment went from 41,074 to 35,897, a 13% decrease.
Population data do not indicate that Oklahoma City’s total population decreased over the 5-year period from 2014 to 2019, but there is no denying the fact of the flight from Oklahoma City’s Public Schools (OKCPS). This drop in student count has been steady since 2014, too. That year OKCPS hit its highest enrollment number in recent decades. The student count has dropped every year since then, and this all preceded Covid-19. Clearly, families are moving to surrounding communities in an effort to avoid OKCPS. No doubt, though, part of the reason for the enrollment drop in OKCPS is the existence of charter schools, like Santa Fe South. From just 2016 to 2019, Santa Fe South saw its enrollment increase from 2,414 to 3,533, a 46 percent increase in just three years.
Why the flight from OKCPS? In a word, OKCPS stinks, and everybody knows it. According the GreatSchools website, 80% of OKCPS’s schools rate below average. Meanwhile, Piedmont’s schools are either average or above average. Santa Fe South doesn’t appear to rate any better than OKCPS, on the whole, but considering how parents so often only pull their kids from district schools when they’re clearly failing their children worse than everyone else, that’s somewhat understandable.
So when the superintendent of Santa Fe South accused the OKCPS board of a “personally motivated” attack when it unanimously voted to request an audit of the charter school, the accusation definitely has the ring of truth about it. Anyone who’s watched an OKCPS board meeting is generally treated to an exercise in dysfunction, where board members discuss minutiae that is best left to the classroom professionals (teachers). Meanwhile, the superintendent proposes social activism, and district policy appears to be that teachers are urged to beg for classroom essentials even as the district is as well funded as virtually any in the state.
It doesn’t help, of course, that in Oklahoma’s State Auditor, Cindy Byrd, OKCPS has a willing tool to do the district’s dirty work. If the OKCPS board actually cared about the kids and families of the district, they would put away political agendas, stop trying to micromanage, let teachers do their jobs, and see what they could do to eliminate the district’s non-teacher overhead. Even better, the OKCPS board could put together a plan to break up their unwieldy district, endorse moving school district elections to November, and see that Oklahoma City’s public schools pursue excellence in knowledge instead of social agendas.
Hey, one can dream.
The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of 1889 Institute.