The Oklahoma Supreme Court says an initiative petition that would overturn a package of tax hikes for funding teacher pay raises and public schools is invalid.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister tweeted Friday morning, “OK Supreme Court rules Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite’s HB1010XX veto referendum petition invalid."
OK Supreme Court rules Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite's HB1010XX veto referendum petition invalid. #oklaed— Joy Hofmeister (@joy4ok) June 22, 2018
Hofmeister also released a statement saying:
”The bipartisan passage of House Bill 1010xx was a significant step forward for all Oklahomans. I commend the Oklahoma Supreme Court for rejecting a repeal effort of this landmark legislation. At long last, we can reward our dedicated, hardworking public school teachers with the competitive pay they deserve. On the heels of a school year in which 1 in 7 students was taught by an untrained teacher, we can, and we must, now begin stemming the tide of Oklahoma’s crippling teacher shortage. Today’s decision clears the way for funding regionally competitive teacher pay, ushering in a new era of stability that is not only a win for public education, but for our kids and the future of our state.”
The court ordered the initiative petition not appear on an election ballot.
The bill raises some taxes to fund teacher pay increases and was passed just before the teacher walkout.
The new tax revenue from cigarettes, oil and gas would fund House Bill 1023XX which allows for teacher pay raises in the first place.
An anti-tax group led by former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn had launched a referendum petition seeking a vote to repeal tax hikes on cigarettes, fuel and energy production approved by the Legislature earlier this year. Money from the taxes would fund an average $6,100 teacher pay increase.
Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! filed the petition in early May, wanting to give voters the opportunity to repeal HB 1010XX.
The group claims the “taxes were raised without any fiscally responsible requests for audits and ultimate reforms.” The group also cited mismanagement of state funds.
The court says the group has until July 18 to circulate a new petition.
After the ruling, Tulsa Public Schools released a statement saying, "After this spring's historic advocacy effort from our teachers, with overwhelming support from Oklahomans from all walks of life, this is yet another landmark moment for public education in our state. We are beyond thrilled with today’s Oklahoma Supreme Court decision to protect the revenue we need to provide this long-overdue salary increase. This is an important step toward making sure that Oklahoma educators are compensated as professionals. Our teachers have waited long enough, and we look forward to implementing the raises in full this August."