Oklahoma Ballot Initiative on School Funding Soundly Defeated


Last Updated: November 26, 2010
 

This article appeared in the November 2010 Rural Policy Matters.

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Question 744, a ballot initiative that would have required Oklahoma to increase its per-pupil spending to a regional average, an increase of about $830 million or $1,300 per pupil, did not garner even 20% of voter support on Election Day.

As reported in July RSFN (http://www.ruraledu.org/articles.php?id=2530), the battle for votes on the measure was heated and expensive.

The Oklahoma Education Association and other education advocates launched the constitutional amendment drive after losing a funding lawsuit against the state three years ago. However, the opposing “One Oklahoma” coalition, which included Governor Brad Henry, the presidents of both Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma, and business interests, gained late momentum in its public campaign against the initiative.

Oklahoma One argued that there was no funding source to pay for the increase in state spending on education required by Question 744, and it ran ads suggesting that draconian cuts to other state programs — including prison releases and reductions in support for medications for elderly residents — would occur if Question 744 passed.

Supporters of the measure named a number of potential tax system reforms that could have raised revenue for education without cutting other services.

A separate initiative that would have prohibited the state from basing any spending decisions a set formula or average was also defeated. That ballot question was proposed specifically to prevent any other funding initiatives like Question 744.

Governor Henry, who is viewed as an “education governor” and says he supports increased funding for education, says the state should come together to find a funding source to increase education spending without forcing cuts to other state services.

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