It’s a particularly interesting time in Oklahoma. We find ourselves in a struggle as we divide ourselves between the issues were facing this election season. However, I was particularly offended when I saw a sign in support of SQ779 this week. It wasn’t because they’re for it, and I’m against it. I was offended because the headline was “our children are worth the penny”. As if opponents of SQ779 didn’t think children are worth a penny…ridiculous. My wife and I recently had our first child, a beautiful little girl named Magnolia. Of course she is worth a penny, in fact she is worth every penny I have. However, I will not buy in to the mindset that my daughter’s future will be magically improved if I pay just one more penny in new taxes on each dollar I spend. It’s those big promises with little results that has continued to plague education in Oklahoma. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane.
How about the 1990 special session for HB 1017 when then Governor Henry Bellmon pronounced “a new day is dawning for education in Oklahoma…our state will never again take a back seat in education.” HB 1017 was supported at the polls, and Oklahoman’s then faced tax hikes to fund the changes in education. But today teachers say they feel like they have been abandoned and we’re right back where we started. Or what about in 2002 when then Governor Brad Henry proclaimed the lottery a “victory for education”? Have we been victorious…no it appears not.
We’re struggling in education not because Oklahoman’s don’t support education, were struggling because our tax dollars have not been spent wisely. Oklahoma ranks 6th highest in the nation in direct administrative costs. We also have over 500 school districts. That’s more than Colorado, Maryland, Nevada, Hawaii, and Kansas combined. I’m not saying we bus kids all over, but we can combine administration and overhead costs and put more money directly into the classroom. Next, a study prepared by the OK Tax Commission found 52 of Oklahoma’s 77 counties failed to collect $192 million in property tax revenue in 2014. Keep in mind that would fund approximately 78% of the teacher pay raise in SQ779 while adding no new taxes. Or take for example the millions of dollars in tax payer funded giveaways, exemptions, and subsidies across the spectrum from sporting events to out of state travel for bureaucrats. For far too long things like this have been slipped through and tucked away.
A vote against SQ779 is not a vote against our children and teachers. The fact of the matter is Oklahoman’s care about education, and we care about our children. It’s an incredibly easy concept to vote for SQ779’s 22% increase in the state sales tax and leave it to the “government” to fix the problem, but that has proven ineffective. I want a better education system, but I won’t vote to keep throwing money at a government that has proven it can’t spend it wisely. If we want real change it requires real accountability. It requires putting in work, watching our elected officials, and combing through the state budget. It requires more work than checking a box on a Tuesday and walking away.
Will you please join me by voting no and most importantly putting in the work to improve Oklahoma education?