Last week, Oklahoma Governor Henry publically announced his opposition of State Question #744. Henry will serve as the honorary Chairman of the One Oklahoma Coalition, the organization working to defeat the state question. “I can tell you from experience that if State Question 744 passes, it will absolutely devastate the budget of all other critical areas of the state budget,” Henry said “And we can simply not allow that to happen.”
“I am disappointed that my friend, Brad Henry, has made this decision. I am not surprised though, because I knew that the office holders in this state would be against SQ #744 because it will shake up the power structure in Oklahoma City and hold our leaders accountable for the promises they make to our students,” said Tim Gilpin, a Henry appointee to the state board of education and member of the YES on 744 coalition.
To date, the American Federation of Teachers, the Oklahoma Municipal League, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Oklahoma Professional Economic Development Council, the State Chamber of Commerce and many other organizations have come out in opposition of #744.
Oklahoma University President David Boren and Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis last week issued a joint statement saying the approval of SQ #744 would mean big cuts and programs at their schools and have potentially devastating effects on other areas of the Oklahoma state budget.
Both candidates for Governor, Congresswoman Mary Fallin (Republican) and Lt. Governor Jari Askins (Democrat) have publically stated they oppose SQ #744. The only statewide candidates who have not taken a stand against the proposal are Susan Paddock and Kenneth Corn, both Democrats. Corn has said he favors passage and Paddock has said, "I'll let the voters decide." By the way, she is running for STATE SUPERINTENDENT!
State Question #744 is on the November ballot after an initative petition drive by the Oklahoma Education Association. The OEA collected 234,000 signatures in 2008 to get the issue on the ballot. The National Education Association PAC has pledged over one million dollars to get SQ #744 approved by Oklahoma voters. What is SQ #744 and why is it so controversial?
State Question #744, if approved, would tie Oklahoma’s K-12 educational funding to the ‘regional average.’ The per pupil funding for the six US states that border would be averaged and Oklahoma government would then be mandated by the state constitution to match that per pupil amount first before any other budget expenditures were made.
I normally am not on the same side of an issue as Governor Blackjack Henry, but the Guv is right on this one. Here are the reasons SQ #744 should not be approved:
First, approval of #744 would give control of the state’s education funding to our bordering states’ legislators. We elect ‘Oklahoma” state legislators to go the OKC to hammer out an ‘Oklahoma’ state budget each year. I’m not comfortable giving the power to take my money to someone I don’t get to vote on. In it’s purest form, SQ #744 is a mechanism for ‘taxation without representation.’
Second, SQ #744 does not provide a provision or mechanism for funding- it only mandates spending. Some estimates have other Oklahoma state agencies facing cuts of up to twenty (20) percent if #744 is approved. SQ #744 does not mention tax increases in the ballot language but rest assured if it were approved, taxes would go up- they would have to. Education already gets the lion’s share of the state budget- over 50%- and that percentage would dramatically increase if #744 were approved.
When asked how SQ #744 would be funded, Becky Felts, the President of the OEA said, "The growth in economic revenue over the course the next years will fund SQ 744 without doing any harm to any other state services." Hogwash! Unless Felts knows of several major employers coming to Oklahoma, this statement is pure fantasy. Obviously fellow educators Boren and Hargis disagree with her statement.
Third, there is no evidence that increased funding for education results in a better education for the kids. First suggested in 1966 by sociologist, James Coleman, ‘The Coleman Report,’ concluded that factors such as per-pupil spending and class size do not have a significant impact on student achievement scores. According to Lawrence W. Reed, “The finding of over 30 years of research is clear: More money does not equal better education. There are schools, states, and countries that spend a great deal of money per pupil with poor results, while others spend much less and get much better results. Despite this and subsequent findings, many lawmakers and educators continue to believe that additional resources and funding will somehow solve the problems within the government education system.”
Approval of State Question #744 would be a fiscal disaster for our state and another link in a long chain of failed education solutions for Oklahoma. SW #744 has created a lot of strange bedfellows, but this is one issue all Oklahomans, no matter your Party affiliation, can see we can ill afford.