Oklahoma Spending Likely to Go to Statewide Ballot

Last Updated: December 03, 2008

This appeared in the December 2008 Rural Policy Matters.

A group hoping to raise education spending in Oklahoma to the regional average has submitted to state officials a petition with 238,000 signatures, about 100,000 more than required, to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2010.

Helping Oklahoma Public Education (HOPE) led the petition drive for the measure, called State Question 744. Oklahoma spends about $6,900 per student, while surrounding states spend an average of $8,300 per student. The measure would require the state to meet the regional average and would cost about $850 million.

The petition is now being reviewed by the secretary of state's office, and is subject to state Supreme Court review and legal objections.

State Question 744 has the support of rural education organizations and others who point to recent budget cuts that have slashed funding for schools, but it is also controversial even among education supporters. In Oklahoma, tax increases must receive three-fourths support in both the House and the Senate or go to a statewide vote. Unless a tax increase passed this steep threshold, State Question 744 could force the state to divert money from other essential services.

In other Oklahoma news, state Senator Jay Paul Gumm is proposing to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to prohibit any school from being consolidated unless approved by a majority of voters in each of the affected school districts. Current Oklahoma law requires that local residents approve consolidation or annexation of a district. Gumm's measure would strengthen the ability of local communities to protect local schools against administrative closure or annexation.

Read more:

About HOPE and State Question 744:

News coverage of the consolidation proposal:

Senator Gumm's webpage on the consolidation proposal:

Read more from the December 2008 Rural Policy Matters.