By Dan Bewley, The News On 6
McALESTER, OK -- A question voters will decide in Campaign 2010 could give all Oklahoma school districts more money.
But some say it comes at too high of a cost and may cause more problems than it's worth.
Critics from community of McAlester say a yes vote puts the state's Department of Corrections on rocky ground.
State Question 744 would give public school districts in Oklahoma more money per child. It would require the state to spend no less than the average amount spent per child in our six surrounding states.
Supporters say, among others, it would help recruit more teachers, create smaller classes, and allow schools to stay up to date on the latest technology. Analysts say, if it passes, it could cost more than $800 million dollars per year.
"Funding education is extremely important, like I said, I have children. But you can't do it at a detriment to everything else," said Tracy Davis, Oklahoma State Penitentiary Unit Manager.
Tracy Davis is manager of the unit that houses death row at the state penitentiary in McAlester. Opponents of SQ 744 say if it passes, it could cut as much as 20% from the Department of Corrections budget, and they fear nine state prison would have to close.
Walton Robinson is with the Yes On 744 campaign.
"Frankly, it's a shame that these special interest groups have decided to play politics with our kids' futures," Robinson said.
Davis says the threat is real. His department has already cut its budget, forcing guards and other DOC employees to double their workload.
"With the increased workload, of course, you're going to have mistakes. When staff here makes mistakes, people could get hurt," he said.
Critics are also worried about where the money will come from, saying SQ 744 does not identify a source of funding. They say it could lead to tax hikes.
"The reality is that State Question 744 does not call for a tax increase nor does it call for cuts to any other state agencies," said Walton Robinson with the Yes On 744 campaign.
Robinson adds the state would have three years to determine the best way to fund the program.
While opponents say there must be a better way to increase money for education that doesn't come with a high price.