OKLAHOMA CITY -- Voters overwhelmingly rejected State Question 744 Tuesday. The question was rejected with over 81 percent of voters against the proposed constitutional amendment to dramatically increase public school funding.
State Question 744 would have required the state within three years to meet the average per-student spending of surrounding states. A fiscal analysis of the proposal projected an increased cost to the state of $1.7 billion over three years. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Oklahoma currently spends $8,006 annually for each Pre-K through 12 student. That's more than $1,600 less than the $9,633 that's being spent, on average, in Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. Oklahoma's per-pupil spending ranks 49th lowest in the nation.
Supporters said something needed to be done to fix the state of education in Oklahoma. Opponents, however, said there was no way for the state to pay for SQ 744.
Thirty-five percent of this year's state budget -- $2.4 billion -- is going to common education. According to the non-partisan Oklahoma Policy Institute, phasing in the new spending mandate over three years (as the ballot measure required) would have meant adding $392 million to that $2.4 billion next year, $415 million in FY 2013, and close to $900 million in FY 2014.
At first, the No campaign was an uphill battle with more than 60 percent in favor of the measure, but some said the tide really changed when the man known to many as the education governor, Brad Henry, decided to lead the call to defeat 744. Henry, who has been a staunch supporter of common education, announced his opposition to the proposed amendment, saying it would reduce funding for critical state programs.
"I'm absolutely for increased funding for K-12 education, but not if it has to come at the expense of every other critical function of state government," Gov. Henry said. "State question 744 will hurt education, ironically."
Henry is now calling on everyone to come up with a way to adequately fund Oklahoma schools.