Most Oklahomans agree that our chronically underappreciated and underfunded teachers deserve a raise. That’s why State Question 779 has such a broad appeal – at first glance. However, upon closer examination, SQ 779 is a short-sighted solution with significant negative consequences.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, giving every classroom public school teacher in the state a $5,000 raise would cost $245 million. SQ 779 would raise $615 million annually (and continue to increase each year), which means that $370 million goes to administration and higher education and career tech budgets – not teacher pay raises. We should not permanently raise Oklahoman’s taxes to solve a short-term funding crisis, especially when there is no accountability for how more than half of that money will be spent.
But that isn’t the only problem with SQ 779. If it passes, this state question would make Oklahoma’s average sales tax the highest in the nation. Oklahoma City and Tulsa’s combined sales tax rates would be higher than those in New York City and San Fransisco. Funding for Oklahoma City’s core services, like trash collection, clean water and police and fire protection would be put at risk. And our ability to fund future MAPS projects or address our deficient jail facility would be jeopardized.
I am confident that Oklahomans can create a better plan than SQ 779 to make sure our education system is funded the way it needs to be. If this question is defeated, the Chamber is committed to working with our state legislature to create a plan that funds education without jeopardizing Oklahoma’s economic future. Join me in voting no on State Question 779.