Oklahoma State Funds for Common Schools, State Question 744 (2010)
The Oklahoma State Funds for Common Schools Amendment, also known as State Question 744, was on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Oklahoma as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was defeated.
The measure was known by its supporters as the Helping Oklahoma Public Education Act. It was proposed to amend the Oklahoma Constitution to require the Oklahoma State Legislature to fund public education to at least the per-pupil average of neighboring states.
SQ 744 was initiated by the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) after the union lost a lawsuit seeking to increase education funding.
Janet Barresi, the next school superintendent in the state elected on November 2, said that when she took office in January 2011, she would request a full audit of the Education Department. According to Barresi, the audit allowed officials to find out where money is and how it could be used to fill needs and "shift resources." Barresi opposed 744, and stated that schools could operate better with money that they currently have, as she referenced her experiences in seeing such resources being efficiently used, in terms of dollars being stretched.
At an election night watch party, Governor of Oklahoma Brad Henry, who opposed the measure, stated, "We need to identify a funding source so that every other area of state government is protected and not sacrificed."
During 2011 legislative session, State Representative Pat Ownbey proposed HB 1225, which would require that potential initiatives outline all sources of funding to be used in the proposal. This, according to reports out of the state, was in response to 744, which did not identify funding sources. According to Ownbey: "Everyone supports education. At face value, that was all the state question was asking. In reality though, it was setting up the potential to bankrupt other state services. I think it was written in a way that was highly inappropriate. That is why I am pushing for this legislation."
- See also: 2010 ballot measure election results
Official results of the measure follow:
|Oklahoma State Question 744 (2010)|
Election results via: Oklahoma Secretary of State
Text of measure
| The measure repeals a Section of the State Constitution. The repealed section required the Legislature annually to spend $42.00 for each common school student. Common schools offer pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade.
The measure also adds a new Article to the Constitution. It sets a minimum average amount the State must annually spend on common schools. It requires the State to spend annually, no less than the average amount spent on each student by the surrounding states. Those surrounding states are Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Colorado and New Mexico. When the average amount spent by surrounding states declines, Oklahoma must spend the amount it spent the year before.
The measure deals with money spent on day-to-day operations of the schools and school districts. This includes spending on instructions, support services and non-instruction services. The measure does not deal with money spent to pay debt, on buildings or on other capital needs.
The measure requires that increased spending begin in the first fiscal year after its passage. It requires that the surrounding state average be met in the third fiscal year after passage.
The measure does not raise taxes, nor does it provide new funding for the new spending requirements.
Shall the proposal be approved?
For the proposal
Against the proposal
The summary of the measure read:
|“||The measure repeals a Section of the State Constitution. The repealed section required the Legislature annually to spend $42.00 for each common school student. Common schools offer pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade.
The measure also adds a new Article to the Constitution. It sets a minimum average amount the State must annually spend on common schools. It requires the State to spend annually, no less than the average amount spent on each student by the surrounding states. :Those surrounding states are Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, Colorado and New Mexico. When the average amount spent by surrounding states declines, Oklahoma must spend the amount it spent the year before.
The measure deals with money spend on day-to-day operations of the schools and school districts. This includes spending on instructions, support services and non-instruction services. The measure does not deal with money spent to pay debt, on buildings or on other capital needs.
The measure requires that increased spending begin in the first fiscal year after its passage. It requires that the surrounding state average be met in the third fiscal year after passage.
The measure does not raise taxes, nor does it provide new funding for the new spending requirements. 
- YES on 744 was the primary group in support of the measure.
- Oklahoma State Senator Tom Adelson came out in favor of State Question 744 saying, "If the six states surrounding Oklahoma are able to adequately invest in education, my bet is that Oklahoma can too. We want our legislators to represent citizens, not clients."
- Oklahoma State Senator Jim Wilson spoke out in favor of State Question 744 noting that, "In particular, public spending on education has been found to raise gross state product, increase employment and raise incomes."
- 5 of the 6 members of the Oklahoma state Board of Education endorsed State Question 744. Board members Tim Gilpin of Tulsa, Herb Rozell of Tahlequah, Sue Arnn of Ardmore, Gail Foresee of Shawnee and Gayle Miles-Scott of Oklahoma City told reporters Thursday October 21st, that they supported State Question 744.
- Oklahoma State Board of Education member Tim Gilpin advocated for the passage of SQ 744 saying, "SQ 744 does not reach for the stars. It reaches for the regional average in education spending. It's a pretty modest goal. And, that goal is phased in over three years. Is the regional average too bold for us? Would it be acceptable to apply that same standard to our state's university football teams? Why shouldn't Oklahoma spend the regional average on education?"
- University of Central Oklahoma Economist Mickey Hepner stated that SQ 744 was affordable. Hepner wrote in the Edmond Sun, "Of course, we should start with eliminating wasteful spending. State Sen. Tom Adelson opined in The Oklahoman recently that we should eliminate corporate welfare spending which costs taxpayers several hundred million dollars annually without providing significant benefits to Oklahoma. Furthermore, we can look to spend money more efficiently."
- 2009 Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Heather Sparks came out as an advocate for State Question 744. She noted that claims for lack of funding were overblown citing a $4.3 billion dollar construction appropriation made by the state of Oklahoma. From Sparks; "Many elected officials are claiming the state doesn't have the money to invest in our children's future. But our state legislators were still able to scrape together $4.3 billion in new funding for state road and bridge projects."
- The initiative's petition drive was backed by the Oklahoma Education Association, among other groups, such as the Oklahoma COPT, as well as the National Education Association. The groups that supported the petition were dubbed HOPE, or Helping Oklahoma Public Education, HOPE stated at the time that it had intended to collect 200,000 signatures by the first week of November 2009. That goal was well above the 138,970 needed to place the question on the ballot.
- President of the Oklahoma Education Association, Becky Felts, was also a supporter of the measure, stating: "Our Oklahoma kids deserve to have as much money spent on them as the students in Arkansas and the students in Texas. Oklahoma schools are underfunded by about $1,500 per student. This project would generate more than $850-million toward education."
- According to a commentary published by The Journal Record, M. Scott Carter applauded the efforts of the Hope Initiative when he wrote, "For too long the cynics have sat in air-conditioned offices and droned on and on about the poor quality of public schools...You want good schools, good teachers, great administrators and quality graduates? Great. We all want that. But you’re going to have to pay for it. So don’t blame the OEA for circulating the Hope Petition. At least they have offered more than just talk."
- Political columnist Walter Jenny wrote, "The people have every right to set priorities for public officials. If they want public schools to be funded at the regional average, they should fix that bar and force public officials to construct state government around it." He also argued that SQ754 was proposed by the Republican-controlled legislature to block SQ744, thereby creating a constitutional crisis. SQ 754 also "includes a provision that claims it cannot be repealed or amended, even if Oklahoma voters unanimously wanted it changed. By doing so, Republican lawmakers seek to strip Oklahoma voters of their fundamental right of self-governance. That’s how little they trust the voters."
- University of Central Oklahoma professor and liberal blogger Kurt Hochenauer wrote in a Tulsa World op-ed that the passage of SQ 744 would improve educational programs and boost the state's image. "SQ 744 is not only affordable but also a necessary, foundational component for quality of life issues and economic development in Oklahoma. Will it require change? Absolutely. It's about time."
Arguments that supporters made for the measure included:
- Proponents of SQ744 noted at the time the great disparity in Oklahoma school funding compared to neighboring states. Proponents drew a correlation between school funding and economic competition with nearby states noting that Oklahoma was "...dead last in the region and our kids are in a battle with kids from Arkansas, Texas and other states in the region for jobs."
- Proponents pointed out advancements in funding in neighboring Arkansas as an argument for passage of SQ74. Walton Robinson, communications director for YES on 744, said, "While Arkansas continues increasing its commitment to children, Oklahoma has cut more than $200 million for schools. We need to vote for SQ 744 in November so that we can take control of education investment away from career politicians and bureaucrats and give it to the local parents, teachers and school board members who know what is best for their kids."
- University of Oklahoma student Joe DuVall urged his fellow students to support the passage of State Question 744 saying, "If we want to get as competitive with our economy as we are on the field we need to improve our commitment to pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education. If we do, we will have stronger students, a better workforce and more economic opportunities for people all across the Sooner State."
- Oklahoma resident Diana Snow expressed outrage over the claims by opponents of SQ 744, most notably House Speaker Designate Kris Steele, that they would cut early childhood education saying, "The fact that Rep. Steele is even considering eliminating Oklahoma's pre-K classes is unbelievable. There have been many stories about legislative waste over the last few months. I don't understand why Steele can talk about doing away with a program that has a very positive effect on Oklahoma families, but is unwilling to discuss eliminating junkets and five-star hotel stays for legislators."
- In a guest column in the Sand Springs Leader, Jaden Hunter argued in favor of State Question 744 by arguing that state government could not be trusted to adequately fund education, writing, "We can no longer allow our state government to continue to take money from our children. It is clear that our state government has no immediate goal to begin properly funding public education. Let’s take politics out of public education. Our students deserve the best opportunities for success."
- In a letter to the editor dated July, 16th 2010, Tulsa parent Shawna Mott-Wright urged the citizens of Oklahoma to vote Yes on SQ744: "By voting for SQ 744 we can take power away from special interest groups and give the power of a good education to our children. This fall, Oklahomans will have the power to have their voices heard and to ensure our kids have the future they truly deserve. I hope you will join me in voting "Yes" on SQ 744 on Nov. 2."
- Cindy Dunn, in a letter that appeared in the Tulsa World urged passage of SQ 744 in order to remove politics from the education funding process: "I think all Oklahomans can agree: Politics have no place in our schools. Something else I think we can all agree on is that our kids deserve the best education."
- E. Carleton James of Tulsa argued for passage of SQ 744 on the basis that the Oklahoma legislature had not done its duty to adequately. James said, "I say approve SQ 744 and force the Legislature to deal with it. Aren't you tired of the politicians who campaign on creating "good jobs" (read "educated employees") and protecting "family values" (which cry out for adequate education funding), and then, after election, cease any mention of what it takes to accomplish those things?"
- Janet Brewster of Broken Arrow, argued, "Don't our kids deserve better than this? We have a choice to stop this backslide and make our students and schools the priority they should be - State Question 744."
- According to an editorial published in The Oklahoman, and written by 744 proponent Michael Barlow, the group believed the measure should have been passed because, "State Question 744 would release the stranglehold that partisan politics has on our children’s future. It would commit Oklahoma to invest in our children’s future by providing them with the high-quality education they deserve. It would make certain that we don’t have to watch our sons and daughters grow up second to students in every state around us." Barlow was also a partner at Barlow Education Management Services.
- Dr. Lisa Connery, in a letter that appeared in the Norman Transcript noted lack of a resources in Oklahoma schools, saying, "Our kids are being forced to use old materials, learn on outdated technology and attend increasingly crowded schools." Connery is a Norman, OK physician, public school parent and member of the YES on 744 Advisory committee.
- In an article in the Urban Tulsa Weekly, columnist Arnold Hamilton urged passage of SQ744 arguing that "The intense opposition to SQ 744 is -- first and foremost -- about preserving political power and protecting special interests' claim on state budget dollars. And it is full of hypocrisy." Hamilton goes on to say, "And they know that despite offering lip service, state leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, historically haven't delivered on public education. Instead, they melt beneath the sweet-nothings of well-heeled special interests that fill campaign coffers, yet demand tax breaks and other state incentives that limit tax dollars available for education and other worthy projects."
- Supporters of YES on 744 claimed that the question included a three year phase in which the funding increase would be implemented and that "SQ744 provides for a three-year phase-in period, which will allow us to plan and prioritize our schools. We can begin now to reinvest in our schools and focus on the future, leaving behind a positive legacy all Oklahomans can be proud of."
- Proponents also argued that the initiative included measure designed to increase accountability saying that, "SQ 744 requires new accountability standards and reporting to watchdog agencies. It lets us monitor how education dollars are invested so we can ensure our children are getting the new technologies, textbooks, and supplies they need to learn. Published reports also will detail student achievement results so we can determine how our children are succeeding in receiving the education they need to compete against students from Texas and Arkansas for the jobs of the future."
- Kim Gillert, in a letter that appeared in the Tulsa World, encouraged action in order to remove politics from education funding: "It is time for action. It is time to prioritize our children's futures and invest in Oklahoma's schools. We need to pass State Question 744 to remove politics from education and give our children a chance at a brighter future."
- YES on 744 advocates argued that the number of elected officials opposing the initiative was due to political concerns on their part saying "It's really a shame that these special interest groups have decided to use scare tactics, to play politics with our children's future,"
- Parent Shelley Ogan, who volunteered for Tulsa Public Schools, described the shortages of supplies most take for granted at any school: printer paper and ink cartridges. The initiative would have required lawmakers to re-prioritize the state budget to fund education and would not have required a tax increase, supporters said.
- Roy Bishop, former president of the Oklahoma Education Association stated, "We owe it to our children to provide them with an educational opportunity that is at least average compared to the rest of the states in our region." He also stated "we offer our support to the petition and call on all Oklahomans to fight for a better future for our children and for our state as a whole."
- Kelly Fry, who worked as a teacher in the Midwest City-Del City School District, said one of his children once was in a chemistry class that had a great teacher and great laboratory equipment. But there were no chemicals or other supplies. Fry stated, "As a parent and teacher, I've seen how difficult it truly is to educate our students at a level that will allow them to compete in today's global society."
- Bartlesville Public School District Executive Director of Business and Finance Tim Green stated that since BPSD had around 6,000 students in the district, the district would have received around $9.75 million more in funding had SQ 744 passed. According to Green, “This would provide us with a stronger base for retaining employees. We would be able to keep our best and brightest teachers, because we could pay them competitive wages that compare to the surrounding states.”
- In a letter to the editor to the Tulsa World Twyla King, of Eufaula, Oklahoma argued that SQ 744 was a choice of the people and that politicians should have been held accountable for their neglect of education funding. King argued that, "All of the people who keep saying they want to take the government back should vote yes on SQ 744 and let the Legislature straighten out their own mess."
Campaigning, controversies and stories
- The Yes on 744 group, the main group supporting the measure, announced in September 2010 that it had formed a larger group of supporters, and called the group the Yes on 744 Coalition. According to Michael Kolenc, the campaign manager for the group, stated, "We are pleased that so many different groups from around the state of Oklahoma have decided to support this important initiative to help Oklahoma's kids. This coalition represents Oklahomans from all walks of life who believe Oklahoma's children deserve good, high-quality schools."
- Coalition members included:
- The Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes, Cooperative Council of Oklahoma School Administrators, Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, Jewish Federation of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City Council of the League of United Latin American Citizens, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Oklahoma Art Education Association, Oklahoma Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, Oklahoma Association of Elementary School Principals, and the Oklahoma Association of School Administrators.
- According to Mike Bynum, who taught physics and chemistry at Charles Page High School, "Each year, it's a battle to get our kids what they deserve. What we're asking is something that goes completely against our nature: we're asking to be average. Imagine what we can do if we were just average."
- In response to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation's eight-year Construction Work Plan, which included $4.3 billion in bridge and highway upgrades by the end of 2019, the Yes of 744 campaign issued the following statement, “While opponents of SQ 744 say that Oklahoma cannot afford to invest in our children, they are able to find $4.3 billion for transportation projects. Those same special interests that are fighting SQ 744 stand to gain financially from the $4.3 billion in transportation spending, and all while saying that 49th in the nation in school funding is good enough for Oklahoma. This type of hypocrisy makes it abundantly clear that Oklahoma’s kids and schools are not their top priority.”
|Education on the ballot in 2010|
- The One Oklahoma Coalition formed in opposition to SQ 744. The coalition was a broad based nonpartisan group comprised of farmers, ranchers, businessmen and women, public employees, and organizations such as Oklahoma Farm Bureau, T.R.U.S.T., Restore Oklahoma's Public Education, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Tulsa Metro Chamber, The State Chamber, Oklahoma Public Employees, American Farmers and Ranchers, Associatation of General Contractors, Oklahoma Bankers Association, and many more individuals, organizations, and businesses. The groups primary concern was an unfunded mandate which estimates predicted would cost Oklahoma more than $1-billion dollars per year being on the ballot when Oklahoma was already facing a billion dollar deficit, according to the group's arguments.
- Governor of Oklahoma Brad Henry stated his opposition to the measure, saying, "I can tell you from experience that if State Question 744 passes, it will absolutely devastate the budget of all other critical areas of the state budget. And we can simply not allow that to happen."
- The Oklahoma Farm Bureau was against the measure, as they announced their opposition at a press conference in front of Enid voters on July 21, 2010. According to Mike Spradling, who was the president of the organization, "Rural Oklahoma will pay for the lion’s share of State Question 744."
- The Oklahoma Hospital Association stated its opposition to the measure, claiming that the question would negatively impact health care funding in the state. The group stated that the measure would reduce federal health care matching funds by $343 million.
- The organization Transportation Revenues Used Strictly for Transportation (or T.R.U.S.T) was against the measure and voiced their beliefs during the week of March 30, 2010. The group argued that Question 744 would have hurt other state agencies if approved. According to Neal McCaleb, "All of us are interested in education. But State Question 744 is the wrong thing at the wrong time when the Legislature is so strapped."
- The American Federation of Teachers (Oklahoma chapter) encouraged its members not to assist with the HOPE petition effort, citing the following reasons:
- There was nothing in the petition that would specify where the additional funds would be spent.
- 2010 was an election year and funds were needed to help legislators who supported public education to become elected.
- If taxes were not increased to produce enough funds to reach the regional average, state services from Medicaid, roads and bridges, public safety, to state employees would suffer budget cuts
- The political timing of this effort may have proved to be very detrimental to public educations efforts to maintain public and legislative support.
- Opponents argued that if the measure was approved, it could have resulted in a loss of approximately 7,000 state workers and about 25 percent of state services, which would have included veteran's care.
- At the Capitol, three Republican House members criticized the plan at a news conference. House Education Chairman Tad Jones of Claremore said it would have likely forced a tax increase, while other lawmakers said it could have lead to school consolidation and cuts in road funding. State Question 640, which voters approved in 1992, said that no tax increase could take effect unless it received three-fourths support in both the House and the Senate or was approved by a vote of the people.
- Many opponents claimed that if the state were to have required funding for education, it would have endangered other state services.
- The group, Restore Public Education argued that Oklahoma education funding was already adequate, but that funding should be spent wisely. The group also argued that the state should have procedures to make sure that money was going towards students and teachers, not administration.
- Officials said that the measure could have cost the state $850 million a year.
- Leslie Osborn stated that a House study concluded that the measure would have resulted in a 40 percent tax increase or a 22 percent hit across the board of every state agency. An $850 million to $1 billion increase of spending would have been required. The study had not, to date, been made available to the public in its entirety.
- According to Oklahoma Policy Institute director David Blatt, who issued a position paper and op-ed, with studies of the measure included, the measure would have hurt the state's economy. Blatt stated, "Since the measure doesn't provide for any new revenues, passage of SQ 744 would ensure a severe funding shortage for all other functions of government that could be addressed only by deep budget cuts or substantial tax increases."
- Tad Jones said lawmakers didn't have $850 million lying around the Capitol. Jones, the chairman of the House Education Committee, said, "If we were to cut road funding, eliminate it completely, we would still reach barely half of what the OEA is requesting."
- Jeff Hickman, chairman of the House Rural Caucus, who represented five counties in northwest Oklahoma, noted that the OEA initiative was similar to one implemented in Arkansas that led to school consolidation even as lawmakers increased funding. According to Hickman, "It's this simple: The states the OEA cites as models closed rural schools. And since the OEA plan is very similar to the Arkansas initiative that led to the consolidation of 57 schools, it's hard to believe they don't expect the same thing to happen in Oklahoma. Reducing educational opportunity does not help Oklahoma children. We need to support our schools, not close them."
- In Arkansas, lawmakers closed schools and increased taxes as they worked to hike school funding, yet failed to improve student performance, according to Hickman. Hickman said it's no surprise Oklahoma students continue to outscore Arkansas kids on the ACT. "You don't improve education by closing schools - particularly some of our best-performing districts," Hickman said. "We don't need to adopt the Arkansas model in Oklahoma."
- David Dank offered four reasons the HOPE petition initiative was "bad math, bad policy and a bad idea."
- "First, anyone who knows basic arithmetic understands why this won't work. Every time you raise Oklahoma's per-pupil spending you also raise the regional average, even if the other states in our region do nothing. That ever-escalating average then becomes the carrot at the end of a stick, forever just out of reach. You can never equal a moving average when what you do drives that average forward."
- In addition, since the Oklahoma Constitution requires a balanced budget and, Dank says, the measure would require at least an additional $850 million, either a tax increase or cuts in other programs would be required. Dank adds that Oklahoma schools don't deserve more money "until they spend the ones they have more sensibly." He argued further that "there is no clear correlation between average per-pupil spending and learning."
- Randy Brogdon, R-Owasso, noted, "My biggest concern is that it takes the responsibility of funding away from the Legislature." He said he believes that circulators will get the necessary signatures but that voters ultimately will reject the proposal. "When I am asked about it, I explain the direct consequences," Brogdon said. "They realize right away it is not a logical thing to do."
- In an editorial published in The Oklahoman on October 3, 2009, State Representative Leslie Osborn gave her position on the measure. Osborn argued that the measure would put more pressure on families by raising punitive taxes during a recession. She also stated that the state could not afford to fund the amendment. Osborn stated: “As a small-government conservative, I am certainly not opposed to spending cuts, but I also believe government should do a few core jobs and do them well. Unfortunately, SQ 744 could imperil even the most basic functions of government.”
- U.S. Senator Tom Coburn was against the measure and the National Education Association, and said in a statement, "Nowhere does the U.S. Constitution give Congress the authority to be responsible for teacher pay in Oklahoma. Teacher pay is a state and local function that should be performed at the state and local level. During this debate I was also reminded why I believe organizations like the NEA are responsible for creating this crisis."
Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins stated that the goal of supporters of Helping Oklahoma Public Education and their petition was to try to make sure that the state invested in children’s education. However, when most people signed the petition, many of them were unaware of the rough economic times that were to occur in the state and the country. According to Askins:“From conversations I’ve had with some of the individuals that signed the HOPE petition, they’ve said if they’d had a crystal ball and had been able to look down the road to see what was happening in the economy — not just here in Oklahoma but nationwide — their timing for this might have been a whole lot different.”
Rallies and events
- Three candidates for governor participated in a forum held at Oklahoma City Community College, and all three stated their opposition to Question 744. Candidate and Lieutenant Governor Jari Askins stated that the measure was “well-intentioned”, but would present problems such as:
- Hurt early childhood
- Erode money for higher educational purposes
- Raise tuition and fees
- Another candidate, Attorney General Drew Edmondson, questioned whether the measure, if enacted, would be enforceable. Edmondson also raised the issue that the measure would take money from other agencies. The other candidate, Senator Randy Brogdon stated that the measure would seize control from the legislature and would affect the next governor.
- At the Norman Veterans Center, Michelle Sexton stated that veterans facilities would be affected in a negative way if SQ 744 was passed. She claimed that those state facilities had a financial disadvantage when trying to attract physicians and medical care workers, and this would only be worse if the measure passed. Sexton stated, "Education is important, but please don't forget the veterans."
According to opponents of the measure, most notably The One Oklahoma Coalition, a $1.5 million contribution made by The National Education Association to the Yes on 744 campaign on July 15 should have been returned since it allegedly violated state law banning donations from out-of-state political action committees to other state committees. The rule banning this action had taken effect on July 1, 2010.
However, on September 3, 2010, the state Ethics Commission did not act on the complaint filed by opponents before the meeting. Due to the inactivity on the part of the Ethics Commission, the contribution made by the National Education Association was allowed to be kept by the campaign for the measure.
- The following is a chart displaying the contributions made in support of the measure:
|Yes on 744||$2,180,248|
- The following is a chart showing the contributions made towards the campaign against the measure:
|One Oklahoma Coalition||$628,950|
Reports and analyses
According to an Oklahoma Policy Institute analysis of the measure, the proposal would have cost the state $1.7 billion over three years. The increase, according to the report released on July 20, 2010, would be from fiscal year 2012 through fiscal year 2014. According to the institute, "This would come at a time when the state is already facing a budget hole of over $1 billion in non-recurring revenues and core services are struggling to recover from two years of reduced funding. This situation would necessarily require deeper budget cuts, tax increases or both, even assuming a strong economic turnaround."
On the other side of the measure, the Yes on 744 campaign issued a statement against the report, stating, "The apparent hijacking of a public policy advocate like OPI proves how far champions of the status quo are willing to go to rob Oklahomans of the opportunity to give their kids a better future.”
University of Central Oklahoma associate professor of economics Mickey Hepner had an editorial published by the Edmond Sun, which responded to the Yes on 744's comments on the study. The editorial stated, "I urge the “Yes on 744” campaign to release a thoughtful response to the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s report. The response should acknowledge the concerns being raised by the Oklahoma Policy Institute (and others across the state), but make a compelling case for why Oklahoma voters need to make this commitment to public education. If, as the ballot measure’s supporters claim, the passage of SQ 744 would be good for our state, such a report should not be too hard to write, and would make the task facing Oklahoma voters much easier."
- The Oklahoma Daily asked voters to support the measure in an October 21, 2008 editorial. It said, "With extra funding and good instruction for students, we think the quality of education in Oklahoma public schools will improve dramatically. Oklahomans must vote for the HOPE Ballot Initiative. There is no reason other states should embarrass Oklahoma, especially when it comes to education."
- According to The Oklahoman editorial. "The problem is that no amount of money has ever been enough for the OEA, and won't ever be because the union's chief objective is to retain the status quo."
- A subsequent Oklahoman editorial stated, "It's all about more money. After all, the OEA hasn't supported school consolidation, a later start to the school year, charter schools, vouchers or other programs that might actually make for a better, more efficient use of taxpayer dollars. In winning the fight for higher teacher salaries, they've fought against increased accountability through merit or performance pay. We don't dispute the voters' rights to decide issues of statewide importance. But the OEA only wants that to happen when it will work to its advantage."
- The Tulsa World stated, "The reason we have a Legislature is so that the representatives of the voters can meet and set priorities, first and foremost budgetary priorities. Constricting the hands of lawmakers in this fashion is a recipe for disaster."
- The Stillwater-NewsPress Editorial Board came out against the HOPE initiative, stating, "While increasing funding for education is an admirable goal, tying the hands of lawmakers who have many other needs to consider usually results in more numerous and greater problems. Requiring a certain amount of money be put toward education each year, regardless of the economy, relative need or state of other items also funded by taxes, makes it less likely that legislators will be able to handle the next emergency."
- The Enid News editorialized on August 27, 2008, saying "We think tying our expenses to the fortunes of other states is foolish. Why would we let other states dictate our policies? We need to handle the situation by ourselves...We say be wary when you are asked to sign this petition."
- Tulsa Beacon publisher Charles Biggs wrote a column against the measure on April 1, 2010, citing examples and giving arguments for why residents shouldn't vote for Question 744. He stated that the measure would essentially backfire and hurt education. Among his arguments, he included that backers chose to place the measure on the ballot using the initiative process, knowing that Oklahoma Legislature wouldn't pass it. Biggs wrote, "If it passes, it would cost Oklahoma an additional $850 million a year in education costs. So, compelled by this new law, legislators would have to fund education before spending a penny on highways, bridges, prisons, the OSBI, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, district attorney office funding, parks and any other item in the budget." Biggs also cited a shortfall in the state budget: "This year, Oklahoma has a billion-dollar shortfall that would be a two-billion shortfall if HOPE passes. That would gut law enforcement, close state parks, force layoffs for OHP and probably cause unpaid furloughs or layoffs for every state departments."
- See also: Polls, 2010 ballot measures
- In a survey conducted by SoonerPoll.com and powered by Tulsa World, 621 likely Oklahoma voters were polled on 5 of the 9 statewide ballot questions that was on the November 2, 2010 ballot. The poll included only registered voters in the state, and surveyed 325 Democrats, 267 Republicans, 28 Independents and one Libertarian. According to reports, the margin of error was plus or minus 3.93 percentage points. The results of Question 744 are as follows:
- In a second poll conducted by SoonerPoll.com, 65 percent of voters polled stated that they were for the measure. The poll included 385 Democrats, 340 Republicans and 31 independents. The margin of error was reported to be 3.57 percentage points and was commissioned by the Tulsa World.
- In the most recent SoonerPoll, most of those polled stated their opposition to the measure. The poll was conducted during October 3-7, 2010, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5.2 percent.
- In one of the last polls taken by SoonerPoll before the general election, the results showed strong opposition to the measure by those surveyed. The poll included 384 Democrats, 345 Republicans and 24 independents.
|Date of Poll||Pollster||In favor||Opposed||Undecided||Number polled|
|January 2-5, 2010||SoonerPoll.com||61%||23%||16%||621|
|July 16-21, 2010||SoonerPoll.com||65%||21%||14%||755|
|October 3-7, 2010||SoonerPoll.com||27.6%||58%||14.4%||352|
|October 18-23, 2010||SoonerPoll.com||22%||67%||11%||753|
Due to the impact and the reason behind the measure, the passage of State Question 754 would have essentially shot down State Question 744 if the measure had been enacted by voters. In any case, according to Dr. Rick Farmer, director of committee staff for the Oklahoma State Representatives, legal action could have taken place if 744 had passed. According to Farmer, who compared the two measures, which one was a legislatively-referred state statute and the other an initiated constitutional amendment, "But can a statute direct the state’s constitution? I don’t know about that. So here’s my prediction: If any of these pass, one the other or both, it’s going to be in the Supreme Court. It’ll be a big lawsuit. We’re talking about a billion dollars.” Neither measure was passed.
Path to the ballot
Paid circulators and volunteers canvassed state fairs and college and high school football games across the state to collect the signatures.
State Question 744 started as a petition in the summer of 2008. State law requires 138,970 signatures to have a measure placed on the ballot; 234,446 signatures were gathered and were accepted without any challenge during the allotted time frame. The OEA delivered 234,446 signatures to the Oklahoma Secretary of State, nearly over 100,000 more than the required 138,970 signatures. No challenges were filed within a 10-day protest period that had started on December 29th, guaranteeing the initiative would appear on the ballot.
Funding for the HOPE ballot initiative
According to a Tulsa World article on August 30, 2008, petition circulators were paid $1 per signature and the drive raised $179,627, with all but $100 coming from the OEA or National Education Association. The group had hoped to raise as much as $3 million for the entire process. The OEA raised $600,000 to pay 250 circulators, and projected the total ballot initiative to cost $3 million. According to a September 2009 report, the measure could cost the state up to $850 million per year.
The following is a time line of events relating to the ballot measure:
- July 31, 2008: Supporters launched initiative to place measure on ballot.
- August 6, 2008: Oklahoma Secretary of State received application for petition.
- November 2009: Supporters had hoped to collect at least 200,000 signatures.
- December 2009: Initiative qualified for the November 2010 ballot.
- January 12, 2010: Governor hopefuls faced off on issues during forum, including State Question 744.
- Oklahoma 2010 ballot measures
- 2010 ballot measures
- List of Oklahoma ballot measures
- History of Initiative & Referendum in Oklahoma
- Oklahoma Secretary of State
- Oklahoma State Question 744
- Oklahoma State Questions Booklet for the November 2, 2010 election
- World Magazine, "2010 Preview: Ballot initiatives are a way for citizens to settle an issue directly without state legislatures," January 16, 2010
- Disparate funding has Oklahoma schools on roller coaster
- Tulsa World: "Education funding petition started," Aug. 1, 2008
- News-Star: "School funding petition drive kicks off," July 31, 2008
- Americans for Prosperity: "Improving Oklahoma Education Doesn’t Mean Throwing Good Money After Bad," July 31, 2008
- Oklahomans For Responsible Government
- OEA Proposal would create enormous unfunded mandate
- Tulsa World: "Jones criticizes HOPE initiative," July 31, 2008
- The Oklahoman: Editorial: "Intro to sarcasm: OEA boss should teach a class," Aug. 4, 2008
- TulsaWorld: Editorial: "No solution," Aug. 4, 2008
- Tulsa World: School funding petition under way," August 7, 2008
- Tulsa Beacon: OEA plan would mean higher taxes and consolidation," August 7, 2008
- The Oklahoman: Editorial: Power play: OEA isn't in the voters' corner," August 10, 2008
- The Joplin Globe: Critics decry school-funding proposal," August 17, 2008 (dead link)
- The Daily Oklahoman: Guest Editorial by Brandon Dutcher: "The audacity of HOPE," August 18, 2008
- Associated Press: "OEA plans push to gather signatures for petition," August 30, 2008
- State would pay heavily for education funding plan
- Oklahoma State Question 744 explored in forum
- Contractors, associations support both sides of SQ 744 debate
- "Okla. education funding ballot measure waning in popularity," Capital Beat OK, October 13, 2010
- Oklahoma election 2010: Both sides debate State Question 744
- Oklahoma Ethics Commission discusses new proposal
- State Question to change education funding up for debate
- Seniors would be harmed by SQ 744 passage
- Oklahoma Secretary of State, "State Questions," accessed December 3, 2014
- The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma officials look for education funding options after SQ 744's defeat," November 10, 2010
- KXII.com, "Okla. bill aims to clarify funding sources," January 19, 2011
- Oklahoma Secretary of State, "State Question 744," accessed December 3, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- , "'SQ 744 affordable if we change special interest treatment," September 27th, 2010
- , "'Wilson: SQ 744 – Decision input needed," September 28th, 2010
- , "'Five education board members say they support SQ 744," October 21st, 2010 (dead link)
- , "'SQ 744 on the Oklahoma Ballot," October 17th, 2010
- , "'State Question 744 is affordable after all," October 1st, 2010 (dead link)
- , "'SQ 744 would help Oklahoma kids move from the back of the line," September 15th, 2010
- KXII.com, "'HOPE' Initiativeon next year's ballot in Okla.," December 2, 2009
- The Journal Record, "Fourth Reading: Be true to Oklahoma schools," July 22, 2010
-  (dead link)
- Tulsa World, "SQ 7444 would boost education, state's image," September 3, 2010
- The Oklahoman, "Fight over school funding to be big issue in Oklahoma fall vote," June 20, 2010
- IVote, "YES on 744: Arkansas action shows need for state question's approval" (timed out)
- OU Daily, "Letter to the Editor: Thursday's SQ 744 story is unfair, inaccurate," September 27, 2010 (dead link)
- Tulsa World, "Letter to the Editor: Cut junkets, not schools," September 26th, 2010 (dead link)
- " GUEST COLUMN: Oklahoma politics are hurting Oklahoma schools," September 28, 2010
- Tulsa World, "Letter to the editor: For SQ 744," July 16, 2010
- Tulsa World, "Letter to the Editor: Yes for SQ 744," August 11, 2010 (dead link)
- Tulsa World, "Letter to the Editor: Make Legislature deal with 744" August 22, 2010 (dead link)
- Tulsa World, "Letter to the Editor: Vote for the kids," August 29, 2010 (dead link)
- The Oklahoman, "Weary of lip service," March 22, 2010
- Norman Transcript, "Now is the time to put our children first," April 19, 2010
- Urban Tulsa Weekly, "Lip Service to Education," March 10, 2010
- Yes on 744, "How SQ 744 Supports our Kids and Schools"
- Tulsa World, "Letter to the Editor: For State Question 744," April 21, 2010
- TulsaWorld.com: "Education funding petition started," August 1, 2008
- NewsOK.com: "State teachers seek vote on funds," August 1st, 2008 (dead link)
- Examiner-Enterprise, "State Question 744: Oklahoma voters to decide school budget question," April 29. 2010 (dead link)
- , "SLetter to the Editor: The people's choice , October 23rd, 2010 (dead link)
- Tulsa World, "Yes on 744 announces coalition of supporters," September 9, 2010 (dead link)
- Edmond Sun, "744 supporters bash ODOT plan," August 12, 2010 (dead link)
- Norman Transcript, "Henry, politicians oppose SQ 744," September 22, 2010
- EnidNews.com, "Ag leaders, state coalition are against S.Q. 744," July 21, 2010
- NewsOn6.com, "State hospital group comes out against SQ 744," October 5, 2010
- The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma education plan draws fire," March 30, 2010
- AFT-OK website (dead link)
- The Oklahoman, "Opponents of Oklahoma education funding bill say schools should be more frugal," May 8, 2010
- Edmondson Sun, "SQ 744 opponents decry lack of accountability," May 10, 2010
- KFSM.com, "Coalition outlines consequences of education initiative to veterans, state workers," June 24, 2010
- The Oklahoman, "Think tank's rejection a major blow for SQ 744," July 26, 2010
- Tulsa World: "Education funding petition started," August 1, 2008
- OEA Proposal would create enormous unfunded mandate
- The Oklahoman: Opinion: "Petition idea doesn't add up," Aug. 10, 2008
- Tulsa World: "Education spending petition circulators making rounds, "August 30, 2008
- The Oklahoman, "Measure will be costly unfunded mandate"
- The Oklahoman, "Coburn Blasts NEA, State Question 744," August 5, 2010
- The Edmond Sun, "Politicians debate SQ 744’s fiscal impact" October 21, 2009
- Tulsa World, "Governor hopefuls square off in forum" January 13, 2010
- The Oklahoman, "Oklahoma Question 744 impact discussed in Norman," June 25, 2010
- The Oklahoman, "Opponents of SQ 744 say national teacher's group donation should be returned," September 3, 2010
- The Oklahoman, "SQ 744: Oklahoma's Ethics Commission takes no action on NEA money," September 7, 2010
- News on 6, "Financial Donation Supporting State Question 744 Raises Ethical Issues," September 16, 2010
- Follow the Money, "Question 744," accessed October 25, 2010
- Tulsa World, "Analysis: Per-pupil spending initiative would cost Oklahoma $1.7 billion," July 20, 2010
- The Oklahoman, "Group backing SQ 744 bashes study of issue," July 26, 2010
- Edmond Sun, "SQ 744 debate needs facts, not hyperbole," July 23, 2010 (dead link)
- The Oklahoma Daily, "Editorial: Students worth money," October 21, 2008
- The Oklahoman: Editorial: "Intro to sarcasm: OEA boss should teach a class," Aug. 4, 2008
- The Oklahoman: Editorial: "Power play: OEA isn't in the voters' corner," Aug. 10, 2008
- TulsaWorld: Editorial: "No solution," Aug. 4, 2008
- Stillwater-NewsPress: Editorial: "Bad idea, good goal," August 22, 2008
- Enid News: Editorial: "Tying education funding to other states’ fortunes foolish," August 27, 2008 (dead link)
- The Tulsa Beacon, "Vote no on SQ 744 - it will bankrupt the State of Oklahoma," April 1, 2010
- Tulsa World, "Term limit expansion finds hefty support," January 26, 2010
- The Tulsa World, "Education funding measure supported, Oklahoma Poll shows," August 5, 2010
- Capital Beat OK, "High profile opposition, negative advertising shift voters against S.Q 744," accessed October 13, 2010
- Tulsa World, "SQ 744 opposition rises," October 30, 2010
- Ada Evening News, "SQ 744 and 754 have residents scratching their heads," August 30, 2010
- KOCO.com, "Okla. Education Headed To Vote," January 9, 2009 (dead link)
- KSWO.com, "Oklahoma education funding petition met with no challenge," January 9, 2009
- The Oklahoman, "Group to deliver petition for more school funds," October 19, 2008
- Capitol Bureau, "Education funding could be tough ballot measure," September 24, 2009
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