Initiative would raise education funding

Monday, October 20th 2008, 12:00 am
By: News 9

By Jacqueline Sit, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY - An initiative petition to increase education funding will be presented to the Secretary of State this morning. Organizers with Helping Oklahoma Public Education or HOPE started petitioning in August to get schools across the state as much funding as our neighboring states.

HOPE has been collecting signatures in support of State Question 44. This initiative would require the legislature to raise per-pupil spending to a level similar to surrounding states.

Oklahoma Education Association's Lela Oman said the state currently spends $6,900 per student. HOPE is proposing Oklahoma increase its spending by $1,400 per student, which would raise the regional average to $8,300.

"The class sizes, the buses, the transportation, just meeting the standards that the state sets for us are the biggest expenses," Odom said.

But House Education Chairman Tad Jones, who opposes the petition, said there's no accountability.

"There's nothing that says where this money is going to go. It just says it'll go to education, so there's no prioritization on education funding. There are no standards that are set to increase student performance, it just says here's more money," Jones said.

Jones adds it would cost taxpayers $850 million to keep up with the regional average, money he said the Oklahoma legislature simply doesn't have.

"We're going to have massive tax increases to pay for that, or massive cuts on government services like Department of Mental Health, Veteran Affairs, Department of Transportation, so there are tremendous consequences to this," Jones said.

Proponents said tax payers will not see any increase, and the overwhelming number of signatures is proof of the public's priority.

"Just hardly anybody said 'no' and that's very gratifying to know that our public supports public schools and wants them funded properly," Odom said.

Odom said they plan to present the proposal to the Secretary of State Monday morning at 10 a.m.

Group leaders said about 235,000 signatures were collected, around 100,000 more than were needed to get the initiative on the ballot before the November 3 deadline.