Oklahoma needs real education reform — now

November 13, 2015 Commentary, Editorials Print Print
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Lenora LaVictoire

Lenora LaVictoire

I have found myself asking this question multiple times since I have been at OCCC: Will OCCC stay open in a political climate that insists that “increasing educational attainment” is a main priority, all the while voting to cut funding for Oklahoma higher education year after year?

Hopefully you, possibly being connected in some way to the college and therefore, concerned about your future education or employment, have heard about University of Oklahoma President David Boren’s proposal to increase Oklahoma’s sales tax by 1 percent to fund higher ed and K-12 education.
The petition to gather signatures to get the “penny tax” on the November 2016 ballot is generating steam.

This increase would bring Oklahoma City’s sales tax from 8.375 percent to 9.375, making it the fourth highest city sales tax rate in the nation, according to the Tax Foundation.

Boren’s plan would raise around $615 million a year, with the majority going to give teachers a $5,000 raise.

Did I mention Oklahoma teachers make some of the lowest salaries in the nation? Their low pay is a reflection of our abysmal K-12 funding. Oklahoma ranks 49th in the nation on what is spent per pupil.

So what is the plan, Oklahoma legislators? To continuously raise sales tax so you can continue to be re-elected on a “no more taxes” platform?

I feel cheated and duped by Oklahoma tax policy. We have obviously reached a place where reforms are an absolute necessity. Boren agrees. He has said “the education crisis trumps the tax policy question.”

But does it? Is a Band-aid tax to schools going to increase when we need it to? No, it won’t.

We’ll be back here in a short while with another ballot initiative.

I’m not interested in staying in a state where the goal is to only get above last, or third from last place.

I want to be educated in a state that says “education matters” and actually means it. I want to be educated in a state where we think we have the best and brightest people looking for an education and we help deliver that to them and meanwhile, reap the economic rewards of an educated workforce.

“All political power is inherent in the people; and government is instituted for their protection, security, and benefit, and to promote their general welfare; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it,” the Oklahoma State Constitution reads.

So what about or general welfare? Our benefit? All I see is industry and business paying low taxes while demanding an educated workforce.

In Gov. Mary Fallin’s February State of the State address, she spoke of her priorities being justice system reform, education and health care.

“We’ve set the bar high in every area we can think of,” she said. “We may not meet some of these goals. But for the first time in state history, we will truly hold ourselves accountable as a state government.”

Are we? According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, Oklahoma continues to lead the nation in cuts to education.

I suppose we will have to wait and see what happens in the FY 2017 budget and the legislative session.

So, Oklahoma legislators, what’s good?

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