Cheap Shot

Image of Oklahoma State Capitol

A legal protest by an offshoot group of the ultra-conservative Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs against the initiative petition drive to raise the sales tax here by one penny to raise money for our education systems will go down in the annals of state political history as an extremist, mean-spirited cheap shot, but then what can we really expect from the right-wingers these days? Crazy on top of crazy with a side order of crazy, please, no thank you. Take a look at and listen to their presidential candidates.

OCPA Impact, a lobbying arm of the Republican-supported think tank, has filed a legal challenge with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, arguing the petition drive’s measure violates the state’s single subject rule in the state’s constitution. That rule requires that proposed laws or measures only be about a single subject. OCPA Impact argues the proposal is really about several issues, including the tax itself, teacher raises and other money for education funding. But that’s a false and narrow view of the constitutional requirement, and OCPA knows it, which I will address later.

Supporters of the measure can’t begin collecting signatures to get the measure on the ballot until the court decides on the issue. That’s what make this extremist and a cheap shot. OCPA simply wants to make this a hassle for well-intended people trying to do something about our terribly underfunded education systems and to address the state’s teacher shortage crisis. Let the people decide. The people rejected a 2010 proposal to raise educational funding to the regional average. Maybe they will reject this proposal as well. The point is this: Whether the proposal passes or fails, the state needs to address that fact its education systems are chronically underfunded, which overall hurts the state economically and lowers the quality of life here.

University of Oklahoma president David Boren has spearheaded the drive to collect enough signatures to get the measure on the general election ballot in 2016 that would raise the state’s sales tax by one penny. The estimated $615 million generated annually would go exclusively to education. Teachers would receive $5,000 annual raises and some of the money would go to higher education as well. This would lower or stop tuition increases. Boren’s coalition is called Oklahoma’s Children, Our Future. Oklahoma currently ranks 49th in the nation in per pupil spending in public common education and is dead last in the region when it comes to teacher salaries. That has led to a teacher shortage here because college students educated and trained to be teachers here can go to a neighboring state, such as Texas, and make a lot more money than they can here. Who wouldn’t go to a big city in Texas to make $18,000 more a year while enjoying more cultural opportunities?

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