Increasing allotted public funding is ideal for improving education, but altering pre-established funds is a viable temporary measure.
Education funding in Oklahoma is still a large issue for schools across the state. In April, the state government passed a new tax bill that helped increase the pay rate of teachers by 15 percent. While this bill was helpful in raising the pay rates of poorly paid teachers, some education members believed that schools still needed more funds to properly do their jobs.
In response, Oklahoma state Senator Stephanie Bice proposed Senate Joint Resolution 70, which would create State Question 801. The question, which would amend the state constitution, expands the uses permitted for certain ad valorem taxes levied by a school district. Currently, the received tax revenue is placed in a building fund for schools to use. The fund would be changed to allow schools to use it for differing operations, which are those deemed necessary by each school district.
Ad valorem levies are local taxes that are based entirely on the current market value of one’s property and can only be used by local governments or schools. After passing in the Senate and the House of Representatives, it will now be placed on the ballot for Nov. 6.
Currently, these property taxes could only be used in education to pay for school renovations. State Question 801 gives school districts flexibility in the use of their fiscal resources. This opportunity will allow districts the ability to use any available capital in an attempt to properly pay for classroom supplies or teacher support.
In a statement by the Tulsa World’s editorial board about their endorsement for State Question 801, they say, “We favor local control and greater freedom with school funding, but hasten to point out that the proposal does not add a penny to the amount of money available to schools and certainly isn’t the solution to inadequate state funding of private schools.”
Local school district representatives are the best people to know what is necessary for their district. Therefore, it is important that they have control over the flow of resources available to their region.
Opponents of the bill, such as Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest, argue that the bill is useless without further revenue increases. In a statement, she argued, “Our schools do not have enough funding, and State Question 801 doesn’t do anything to fix that. Schools already use funding associated with SQ801 to pay for capital projects and repairs.”
While this statement is true, it does not look far into the future. By implementing this bill now, Oklahoma school districts will have the ability to use it in the future when funding may be better. State Question 801 gives local representatives the authority to carry out plans but does not compel them to complete such a plan.
The best solution to improve State Question 801 and education in Oklahoma is to provide more resources to teachers through an increase in revenue. By providing more revenue, school districts will see more possibilities to use the powers granted by SQ801. State Question 801 is not a fix for local schools, but an opportunity for them to have greater control over their funds. Further economic support of education in Oklahoma is still a major priority that needs to be dealt with, although this is a great start.