A question on the November ballot that would raise state funding for public education was denounced at a capitol news conference last week by a group opposed to the effort.
Albert Kelly, co-chairman of Transportation Revenues Used Strictly for Transportation, or TRUST, said raising state support for public education would erode the funds needed to build and maintain Oklahoma highways. With revenue down, he said, increases in education funding would inevitably hurt the highway effort.
“It stands to reason to all of us that look at it, you are going to have to find that money someplace,” Kelly said. “We are not seeing an increase in revenues. So if we are constitutionally mandated to put that money into common education, it has to come away from something.”
State Question 744, which will be decided by voters in November, would require the state to increase per-pupil allocations to the regional average. It is supported by the Oklahoma Education Association and other educational groups.
The Oklahoma Education Association said the state spends $7,615 per student, which is below the $9,078 national average and less per student than is spent by its neighbors Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, and New Mexico.
A report by House staff said passage of the measure would boost spending on education by $850 million a year.
Allocations to public education in Oklahoma’s fiscal 2010 budget total about $2.4 billion, or approximately 36% of state spending.
The legislative report said the income tax rate would have to be increased to about 7.4% from 5.5% to generate the additional $850 million. Other options in the report included an increase in the sales tax rate from 4.5% to 6.2% and a 20% reduction in state agency budgets.