Friday, October 21, 2016

Review of State Question 779


Editor’s Note: On Nov. 8 Oklahoma voters will be making several decisions from choosing a president to answering seven state questions.

In an effort to help with those decisions, The Mix 105.1 has turned to the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide to review the seven state questions that will be put to voters on Nov. 8. The Oklahoma Voter Guide is a nonpartisan effort by a coalition of Oklahoma entities from both the non-profit and for profit sectors. The voter guide does not endorse or oppose any candidates for state or federal office, nor does it take any position on the state questions.

Following is the review of State Question 779 on an Education Funding Tax. The Mix 105.1 will post a review of each question prior to the election.

Education Funding Tax

State Question 779

BALLOT TITLE

This measure adds a new Article to the Oklahoma Constitution. The article creates a limited purpose fund to increase funding for public education. It increases State sales and use taxes by one cent per dollar to provide revenue for the fund. The revenue to be used for public education shall be allocated: 69.50% for common school districts, 19.25% for the institutions under the authority of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, 3.25% for the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education, and 8% for the State Department of Education. It requires teacher salary increases funded by this measure raise teacher salaries by at least $5,000 over the salaries paid in the year prior to adoption of this measure. It requires an annual audit of school districts’ use of monies. It prohibits school districts’ use of these funds for increasing superintendents’ salaries or adding superintendent positions. It requires that monies from the fund not supplant or replace other educational funding. If the Oklahoma Board of Equalization determines funding has been replaced, the Legislature may not make any appropriations until the amount of replaced funding is returned to the fund. The article takes effect on July 1 after its passage.

SUMMARY

If this proposal is approved, Article 8-C would be added to the Oklahoma Constitution creating a limited purpose fund—the Education Improvement Fund.

An increase of the sales and use tax by one cent on the dollar would provide revenue for the fund. School districts that benefit from the fund would be subject to an annual audit. Funds generated by the tax cannot be used to replace other state funding of common, higher, career and technology, and early childhood education.

The provisions of the new article require a minimum $5,000 salary increase for teachers over the salaries paid in the year prior to adoption. The funds generated would not be used to increase the salaries of school superintendents or to add superintendent positions.

Oklahoma’s average compensation for teachers, including salary and benefits, is $44,921. According to the National Education Association, Oklahoma ranks 49th in the nation in teacher pay.
A section within the new article to the state constitution establishes that monies collected would be distributed as follows:

* 69.5 percent to common education
    *– 86.33 percent of common education funding would be used to provide teachers with a minimum     $5,000 raise and otherwise address or prevent teacher and certified instruction staff shortages.
  * – 13.67 percent of common education funding would be used to adopt or expand, but not              maintain, programs, opportunities or reforms for improving reading in early grades, improving 
   high school graduation rates, and increasing college and career readiness.
* 19.25 percent to higher education
* 3.25 percent to career and technology education
* 8 percent to early childhood education

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Both Sides

PROPONENTS SAY: YES

· There is no greater need in Oklahoma than the adequate funding of education for our children. As of 2016, the Oklahoma Legislature has not approved an across-the-board salary increase for teachers in eight years.

· The measure would ensure a guaranteed source of additional education funds that cannot be used for other purposes by the legislature.

· The proposed salary increase would be permanent, not a one-time “bonus.” This would aid in the recruitment of new teachers and retention of experienced teachers.

OPPONENTS SAY: NO

· A sales tax disproportionately impacts lower-income people, a concern especially in Oklahoma, whose poverty rate is higher than the national average.

· If approved, SQ 779 would set a harmful precedent in public policy making by weakening the state legislature’s obligation to fund education adequately.

· Higher state sales taxes would hurt city governments’ ability to raise or maintain their own sales taxes, on which they rely heavily to pay for services such as police and fire protection and water, sanitation, and streets services.

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Tomorrow, State Question 778 on Law Enforcement will be reviewed. The Mix 105.1 thanks and credits the following for the information – The League of Women Voters of Oklahoma, KOSU, OETA, Tyler Media, KGOU, Oklahoma Watch, The Oklahoman, and Kirkpatrick Foundation.

For more information on the 2016 Oklahoma Voter Guide visit okvoterguide.com.


Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

For more news stories stay tuned to The MIX 105.1 or visit www.kxmx.com

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