Authored by State Senator Randy Brogdon, (R-Owasso) and State Representative Gus Blackwell, (R-Goodwell), the bill will increase accountability and transparency in education. The bill is an expansion of Brogdon’s 2007 Taxpayer Transparency Act, which created a website to show taxpayers how the state spends their tax dollars.
“In a time when every school district in our state is struggling financially, there is no room for waste. Our students need all the resources they can get, and my bill will ensure that public funds are used as efficiently as possible. This is the people’s money and we have the right to see how it’s being spent. By having every dollar accounted for, I believe we’ll see less and less waste in public school expenditures,” Brogdon said.
Usually conservatives and the Oklahoma Education Association are not on the same page, but they appear to agree on this issue. In a posting on their website supporting the passage of #1633, the OEA said, “Increased accountability and transparency fosters mutual respect and trust between schools and the public.” The teacher’s union is hoping an ‘informed’ public will support increased education funding, but that strategy might backfire when taxpayers see how their money is actually being spent. Most money in Oklahoma is not spent in the classroom.
Education funding is always an issue in Oklahoma and this year is no different. Let’s talk about SQ # 744.
SQ #744- aka as the HOPE petition- will be on the ballot in November. It would tie Oklahoma’s common education(K-12) funding to the ‘regional’ average. SQ #744, if passed, could increase funding to common education by as much as one billion dollars annually. Oklahoma’s total budget in fiscal year 2011 is only 6.68 billion, so SQ 744 would increase total funding by 15%. The proposal doesn’t have a funding mechanism included, but it’s clear if it were approved, one or both of the following would have to take place.
(1) A major tax increase. If SQ 744 passes and becomes a part of the State Constitution, legislators would have no choice but to raise taxes to generate the revenue. The most likely way to raise the money would be to increase the state income tax by 30-40%. That might be a hurdle because SQ 640 requires that any tax increase be voted on by the people.
(2) A reduction in services. Estimates by the State House fiscal staff say that state agencies could expect twenty percent cuts if SQ #744 passes. There is probably twenty percent waste in state government, but to take funding from one state agency to give to education is foolhardy, particularly since there is no evidence that throwing money at education works. In Kansas, a similar plan is in place and the increased funding hasn’t resulted in higher test scores for students. The bottom line is that money doesn’t educate a child- teachers do.
The worst part about SQ #744 is that it doesn’t require the money be spent in the classroom- where the real educating of children goes on.
In 1990, a scholar at the Brookings Institute Terry Moe said, “As for money, the relationship between it and effective schools has been studied to death. The unanimous conclusion is that there is no connection between school funding and school performance."
SQ #744 would be devastating for Oklahoma. Vote no in November.