An initiative to increase the state sales tax rate in Oklahoma to raise revenue for education and teacher salaries will be allowed on the November ballot. The Oklahoma Supreme Court has ruled “Initiative Petition No. 403 is legally sufficient for submission to the people of Oklahoma.” The initiative was challenged over a contention that it violates the Oklahoma Constitution’s single subject rule.
The proposed ballot reads as follows:
This measure adds a new Article to the Oklahoma Constitution. The new Article creates a limited purpose fund to improve public education. It levies a one cent sales and use tax to provide revenue for the fund. It allocates funds for specific institutions and purposes related to the improvement of public education, such as increasing teacher salaries, addressing teacher shortages, programs to improve reading in early grades, to increase high school graduation rates, college and career readiness, and college affordability, improving higher education and career and technology education, and increasing access to voluntary early learning opportunities for low-income and at-risk children. It requires an annual audit of school districts’ use of monies from the fund. It prohibits school districts’ use of these funds for administrative salaries. It provides for an increase in teacher salaries. It requires that monies from the fund not supplant or replace other education funding. The Article takes effect on the July 1 after its passage.
If approved, it would add Article 13-C to the Constitution and create the Oklahoma Education Improvement Fund.
David Boren, former governor of Oklahoma and current president of the University of Oklahoma is one of the main proponents of the measure. He released this statement upon learning that the initiative will be on the ballot: “The court decision today is a great victory for the school children and the people of Oklahoma. It will allow the people to vote to solve our crisis in education.” Oklahoma teacher salaries are notoriously low.
Not everyone is pleased with the outcome. Supreme Court Justice Steven W. Taylor called the proposal “a clear example of logrolling.” David Bond, CEO of conservative think tank that challenged the proposal, vowed to “continue our efforts to prevent the tax increase” (The Oklahoman).
The proposal has overcome its first major hurdle in being allowed on the November ballot. Yet in order for it to actually be on the ballot, proponents must gather 123,725 signatures during a 90-day period.
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