Oklahomans Deny Sales Tax To Fund Education

Tuesday, November 8th 2016, 3:05 pm
By: News On 6

Oklahoma voters have decided to pass on State Question 779, which would have seen Oklahoma teachers get a significant increase in pay.

The measure would have adopted a one-cent sales tax dedicated to funding education and giving teachers a pay raise.

“While the results did not come back in our favor, we’ve succeeded in starting a conversation across Oklahoma about education and the need for adequate funding. We won’t stop fighting to keep great teachers in the classroom," said OU President David L. Boren. "We won’t stop fighting to improve funding for our schools. We won't stop fighting for our children. Our work is not done. We will continue to work on improving education in the state of Oklahoma. Our legislators should not rest until they come up with a plan to sufficiently invest in the next generation of Oklahomans.” 

But the Oklahoman Deserves Better Campaign group said it is elated that the state will not suffer repercussions of 779. 

"“It is now critical that we move forward to create a comprehensive plan that will ensure that our schools, teachers and our children receive the state funding they deserve while also protecting and diversifying the funding stream for other levels of government” said Bill Shewey, Enid mayor and chairman of the Oklahoma Deserves Better Campaign.

The revenue would have been divided four ways:

  • About three percent (3.25%) will go toward Career and Technology Education.
  • Eight percent (8%) goes to the State Department of Education, specifically for early childhood education.
  • About 19 percent (19.25%) would go to Higher Education.
  • Nearly 70 percent (69.50%) is for common school districts.

That last part is where the portion the teacher salary raises would have come from.

11/3/2016 Related Story: Where Would Money Go If SQ 779 Passes?

Of the money allocated for common school districts, 86.33 percent would have gone toward giving every teacher in the state a $5,000 raise - that's 60 percent of the entire sales tax.

Opponents of the bill don’t disagree that Oklahoma teachers deserve a raise. However, they say the approval removes the Legislature’s obligation to fund education, which sets a dangers precedent in public policy making.

They also say the proposal would force Oklahoma families to pay the highest combined state and local sales tax burden of any state in the nation.

Accountant Brent Watson argues some Oklahomans wouldn't be able to afford the tax if it passes.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister released a statement said:

“Until we are prepared to take bold action on behalf of public education, we will continue to suffer the consequences, as a greater and greater number of teachers leave the state or exit the profession altogether. I believe Oklahomans support teachers, but they did not want to relieve the Legislature of its responsibility. I will be back before state lawmakers this next legislative session, fighting for kids and a regionally competitive wage for teachers – one that reflects their work as highly trained professionals who change the lives of nearly 700,000 students every day.”

The Oklahoma State School Board Association also released a statement saying:

"The common message of those who opposed SQ 779 was that public education needs a long-term funding plan and resources to offer competitive teacher pay. While I’m disappointed in tonight’s election outcome, the results clearly show Oklahomans are concerned about the teacher shortage and the underinvestment in our children’s education.

"A collaborative effort between legislative, education, business and community leaders needs to begin now so a bipartisan education funding and teacher pay raise plan can be the first order of business when the legislature reconvenes in February. We have no time to lose. We can’t continue putting underqualified, underprepared teachers in our classrooms and burdening our veteran teachers with exploding class sizes and fewer resources. Our teachers and children deserve better."