Included on the November ballot will be State Question 744, which is a reckless tax-and-spend proposal designed to feather the nests of the education establishment, without doing anything to bring much needed reforms to our schools. This proposal focuses exclusively on money, and not on student achievement.
And it’s not just conservatives who realize we have to quit putting money into our education system. Late last month while appearing on NBC, President Barrack Obama said, “We can’t spend our way out of it. I think that when you look at the statistics, the fact is that our per-pupil spending has gone up during the last couple of decades even as results have gone down.”
By its own terms this is exactly what SQ 744 aims to accomplish – massive multi-billion dollar spending based on per-pupil expenditures with NO reforms, NO accountability and NO funding mechanism.
SQ 744 would provide billions of dollars in new spending with no requirements or direction on how these funds should be spent. In fact, every penny of SQ 744 could be spent on superintendent salaries and still meet the requirements of the measure. Just read the ballot – it expressly states this money can be spent on “non-instruction services.” That’s code for items that don’t help our children learn.
There is absolutely nothing in this state question addressing academic rigor, student achievement, teacher performance or anything else to improve our schools. It is solely money.
And this money has to come from somewhere — probably from you and me. When fully implemented, SQ 744 would require an increase of $1,200 per year in taxes for a family of four. That could be in massive property tax increases, a 34 percent increase in state sales taxes, or a 38 percent increase in the state income tax. And that is if the cost is at the lowest estimates being given. Those supporting this ill-conceived proposal have advocated getting rid of homestead property tax exemptions, taxing utility bills and even taxing all retirement benefits, such as Social Security.
If budget cuts alone funded this huge transfer of taxpayer resources to public schools, Oklahoma would be required (at a minimum) to close eight prisons and release 8,400 criminals, lay off more than 125 state troopers, face sizable college tuition increases, cut huge sums from law enforcement, public safety and highways and lose $343 million in federal health care matching dollars. In other words, it would cut more than 20% of all state government outside of common education. Something we just can’t afford.
Incredibly, this union power grab (the National Education Association has already pledged to spend more than $3 million to force this on Oklahomans) is silent on academic performance, efficiency, teacher quality and academic results.
When it comes to State Question 744, join me in rejecting this liberal tax-and-spend agenda for Oklahoma by voting no. This reckless philosophy is one that even President Obama and his Washington cronies admit just won’t work.
Keating, former Oklahoma governor, is a member of the One Oklahoma Coalition, which opposes SQ 744.