Come this November, Oklahomans will have an opportunity to drastically alter the way we fund our education system. Yet, there are many questions in regard to this proposal that lead one to wonder if this is the right way to go.
Here is the language of State Question 744:
The measure repeals a Section of the State Constitution. The repealed section required the Legislature annually to spend $42.00 for each common school student. Common schools offer pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade.
The measure also adds a new Article to the Constitution. It sets a minimum average amount the State must annually spend on common schools. It requires the State to spend annually, no less than the average amount spent on each student by the surrounding states. Those surrounding states are Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Colorado and New Mexico. When the average amount spent by surrounding states declines, Oklahoma must spend the amount it spent the year before. The measure deals with money spent on day-to-day operations of the schools and school districts. This includes spending on instructions, support services and non-instruction services. The measure does not deal with money spent to pay debt, on buildings or on other capital needs.
The measure requires that increased spending begin in the first fiscal year after its passage. It requires that the surrounding state average be met in the third fiscal year after passage.
The measure does not raise taxes, nor does it provide new funding for the new spending requirements.
So what does this question actually propose? First, it is a proposal to amend the State Constitution and change how much money we spend on education. Second, it takes how we determine that spending and put it in the hands of other states. Third, it provides no direction on where that money should come from.
Let’s look at those three points one at a time:
Amending the Oklahoma Constitution to change how much we spend on education
Let me be honest here. I do not advocate trying to fix problems by throwing more money at them. It did not work with our economy, banks, housing or auto industry. In each of these cases, the Federal government decided that throwing money at a problem would fix it and all would be well. We know that did not happen. We are still losing jobs, banks are still suffering, the housing market is still at record lows and auto sales are still slumping. So why are there people out there that think throwing more money at education is going to improve our graduation rates and test scores?
Taking control of our spending and putting it in the hands of other states
This proposal will force our state to spend at the average spending of those states in our region. So in effect, other states will determine our minimum level of spending. If we cannot afford to increase our spending when other states do, we will be forced to do so any way. We will not be allowed to adjust our spending as we see fit. Why would any person want to leave our budget and education in the hands of people with no vested interest in our well being?
Provides no direction on where the money will come from
It says it clear as day in the question: “The measure does not raise taxes, nor does it provide new funding for the new spending requirements” So where will the money come from? Last I checked, money does not grow on trees. So it will have to come from somewhere. That somewhere will either be increases in taxes or decreases on other services provided by the state of Oklahoma. While I support decreasing spending in areas of government that are not for the public good, I do not support taking that money and putting it elsewhere in government. I also support decreasing our tax rates to make it more attractive for people to live and work here. So why are people clamoring to increase taxes and decrease other necessary functions of government?
Vote No on SQ744 and fight for real reform
I ask that everyone vote ‘No’ on SQ 744. I propose that we fight for real reform of our education by putting the power of education back into the hands of the people most vested in the welfare of the children of this state, the Parents. I propose that instead of throwing money at the problem of failing public schools, we give the parents the power to direct their children’s education by instituting a voucher program.
By providing a voucher program, parents will be given a certain amount of money each year to go toward their school of choice. If a parent decides they want their child in the public education system, the money will go to that school. If the parent decides to put their child into a private or charter school, the money will go toward that. If the parent decides to home school their child, they will get money to pay for those expenses.
By doing this, Oklahoma will allow our education system to have a true open market. This will put pressure on all schools to provide the best education possible through true competition. This is the only way to improve our education.