Oklahoma education lawsuit a loss for public schools

Members of the Oklahoma City Board of Education are currently deciding whether or not to sue the State legislature over the lack of funding. The board argues that the state legislature is not living up to the requirements set by the Oklahoma Constitution. Through this lawsuit, the Oklahoma City board hopes to receive enough funds in order to properly provide services to their community.
However, this lawsuit is not universally accepted by all representatives of Oklahoma. Many legislators argue that the entire government is struggling to meet its needs and a lawsuit will merely be a drain on already low resources. In a previous statement, House Speaker Charles McCall said“Every state agency has been asked to operate on less because revenues are down, yet the Department of Education has received a flat budget while others have taken cuts. I would encourage them to spend their time and money on being better stewards of the dollars they receive instead of filing frivolous lawsuits that blame others for their own poor leadership”. Opponents of the bill like McCall argue that the lawsuit would not only be a waste of time for both groups but it would also be a drain on resources with a potentially prolonged lawsuit. The school board should instead just do the best with available resources.
Another case made by opponents of this lawsuit is that this lawsuit is merely a repeat of a previous lawsuit that happened back in 2007. At that time, a case put forward by the Oklahoma Education Association was shut down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The court’s verdict was that “the plaintiffs have failed to allege facts which would give them standing to assert a violation of Oklahoma students’ constitutional rights.” While this new case will be made by the Oklahoma City Board of Education, opponents of the lawsuit claim that the case will be a similar outcome and therefore, a waste of time and resources.
The OKC board argues that this lawsuit is incredibly important because of the gravity of the situation. Over the past few years, Oklahoma has lost a considerable amount of teachers who have left due to monetary or teaching restrictions. Without additional funding in order to buy new equipment and keep these teachers, the board fears that the current situation will continue in a never-ending gradual spiral. In a statement to News Channel 4, District 93 Representative Mickey Dollens argued that “if you look back at the state constitution, Article 16[sic.] section 1… it clearly says that the state legislature has an obligation to maintain education and so far the state leadership has fallen short.” Article 13-1a of the Oklahoma State constitution states that “The legislature shall, by appropriate legislation, raise and appropriate funds for the annual support of common schools of the State to the extent of forty-two dollars dollars per capita based on total statewide enrollment for the preceding school year”
While I believe that education spending is extremely important and useful for the future, I do not think that a lawsuit will be useful in achieving this goal. According to the 2007 case, there is already a precedent in place about similar lawsuits. Therefore, it will be difficult for this lawsuit to pass. While this court case is going on, resources will have to be spent in order to bring this case to fruition throughout court which could be better spent on more important areas in the department. The problem with this case is twofold. If they won, the resources they received could be cut sharply by the costs of the case itself. However, one must also take into consideration where this money would be coming from. Unless the government is purposely not giving enough resources to the school board, this lawsuit will not solve anything except a meager increase in funding.
Instead of this lawsuit, a better idea would be gaining the resources from taxes like the tobacco tax that are currently being attacked for being unconstitutional. This tax would raise around $215 million for organizations such as schools, nursing homes and other government agencies. However, this tax was deemed unconstitutional in the Oklahoma Supreme Court on the basis after companies such as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco and Philip Morris USA argued that the Oklahoma Constitution states that “no revenue bill should be passed during the five last days of session.”. Another problem being that the bill was started in the Senate rather than the House. In the event of a budget shortfall, it seems difficult to not allow any potential forms of management to fit the immediate need. While it is understandable that taxes slipped in at the very last minute can be potentially harmful, it is necessary when there is such a large budget shortfall. Revenue systems such as these could potentially make a big difference in funding Oklahoma’s needy school systems.

Post Author: Nathan Hinkle

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