Fueling Oklahoma’s Educational Future: SQ 779

Fueling Oklahoma’s Educational Future: SQ 779

Shawn Sheehan, Oklahoma’s 2016 Teacher of the Year, stands in his classroom in Norman, Okla., Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. A proposed 1 percent sales tax hike to fund public education and teacher pay raises is one of three state questions that were sent to Oklahoma’s November ballot through the initiative petition process. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

After gathering over 300,000 signatures through petitions, State question 779 will be on the ballot on Nov. 8. SQ 779 will implement a 1 percent sales tax that will go to a teacher pay raise, public schools, higher education, early childhood education and career and technology education.

The question also requires an annual audit to ensure the funds are being utilized properly.

The tax is expected to raise an approximate $615 million in its first year and is expected solve the education funding crisis the state is facing.

Sixty percent of the money raised will go towards giving each teacher a $5,000 pay raise.

Higher education will receive 19.25 percent of the funds, with public education receiving 9.5 percent. Early childhood education will get 8 percent, and career and technology education will walk away with 3.25 percent.

The group Say Yes to State Question 779 claims this is the real and comprehensive solution to the “education crisis” the state is facing. However, there are some who have worked in the public school system who do not believe this is the solution, and Jera Alcorn, former librarian, is one of those people.

“My experience working in the public school system has given me a different outlook on the state question because I know that teachers are not quitting and leaving the state solely because of money,” Alcorn said. “They are sickened by the idea that students are just statistics sitting in chairs for the benefit of the federal and state money.”

Opponents of the tax also believe that there is already enough money in the state to solve the problems we’re seeing in the education system.

“There is plenty of money in the state for education. It is being mismanaged,” Alcorn said.

Oklahoma already has one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation at up to a rate of 10 percent in some areas.

“We have been told at least three times that a tax would solve the shortage: Pari-mutuel Betting, which is horse racing,” Alcorn said. “The Lottery, which is a tax on people who cannot do math, and Casino Gambling. Where is all of that money going? It never trickles down to the teachers or students.”

However, there is still heavy support for the question from teachers and administration in the education system, as well by students here at UCO.

Senior Ashley Sells voted early, and she voted ‘yes’ on the State Question.

“I have a lot of teachers in my family, and I’ve always thought that they should be paid more,” Sells said. “It’s wrong that education is such a last priority in this state.”

Polls will close on Nov. 8 at 7 p.m.

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