Oklahoma’s SQ 744 – A Believer’s Perspective

SQ 744. This measure adds a new Article to the Oklahoma Constitution that would require the State to provide an amount of money per pupil that is at least equal to the average of the amounts spent per pupil by surrounding states.

The proponents of SQ 744 give the following arguments for passage:

  • Give Oklahoma’s children access to the same educational opportunities as children in neighboring states, like Arkansas and Texas.
  • Over the past 2 years Oklahoma’s funding for pre-K through 12th grade education has decreased by over $200 million dollars. This has resulted in mass teacher layoffs, shortages of supplies and slashed curriculums. SQ 744 will prevent further harmful cuts.
  • SQ 744 will provide schools with the resources to recruit and retain additional high quality teachers and help provide for smaller classes, so Oklahoma students receive the individual attention they need and deserve.
  • Oklahoma ranks last in the region and 48th in the nation teacher pay. SQ 744 will help us recruit and retain the best teachers for our students.
  • SQ 744 requires accountability in school investment. It puts control of education funding in the hands of local parents, teachers and school board members who know what their students and schools need.
  • Preparing our children for good-paying jobs and giving them the skills they need for a successful future.
  • Requiring oversight, accountability and transparency in school funding, spending and performance with published annual reports to inform the public and local decision makers.
  • Investing in our schools so our children are prepared for good-paying jobs of the future.
  • A better-educated workforce draws business investment. With a well-educated population we can build a stronger economy right here in Oklahoma.

Opponents to SQ 744 offer the following “big” objections to passing SQ 744

  • No oversight or accountability of how millions of your tax dollars will be spent.
  • No guarantee that any new funding is spent on children, computers, books, classroom needs or teacher pay raises.
  • No reforms in public schools of any type are included in SQ 744.
  • No way to pay for SQ 744 without massive tax and fee increases or without devastating budget cuts to all other state programs and services.
  • State Question 744 is an unfunded mandate. It requires the Oklahoma Legislature to spend billions of dollars, but does not provide any mechanism for generating the money.

How should you vote if you’re a believer? The “Yes on SQ 744″ side wins this debate hands down. Here’s why.

Opponents say that there is no oversight or accountability, no guarantees, and no reforms. This is an interesting argument. Normally conservative voters are the first folks to champion state and local control over expensive public spending programs. Go to any Christian-coalition type web site and you’ll find rhetoric about how state and local governments are closer to the problem and in the best position to make decisions and solve problems. This proposed Article wouldn’t change any of that. All it would do is force the state government to appropriate more dollars for education. In turn, this money would be spent by the same state and local institutions so beloved by conservatives.

That takes us to paying for it. Opponents speak of devastating cuts to state programs and services. What they fail to mention is the huge amount of corporate welfare doled out by the state of Oklahoma that could be easily cut. What am I talking about? Conservatives in Oklahoma have mixed feelings about welfare and other government “handouts.” The way they talk about personal responsibility sends a clear message. It’s as if they recognize that some state aid to the poor is necessary, but to conservatives a large amount (or most of it) should not be given.  So why are they silent about tax breaks for corporations? For some reason that I can’t fathom, they act as if it’s wrong to give human beings money to help them survive, but it’s perfectly fine to give legal entities created to make profits for investors support in the form of tax breaks. Biblically speaking, what’s more important, people, or corporations?

This believer says that it’s time to choose people over profits. Let’s cut corporate welfare in the state of Oklahoma. Let’s reduce politicians’ salaries if we have to. By investing in our children, we will reap a profit to which there is no sorrow attached. Everyone in Oklahoma wins when we have good schools. Vote yes on SQ 744.

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