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Education

Education Sales Tax Supporters Speak Out Against OCPA Impact Legal Challenge

Amber England, the director of Stand for Children Oklahoma, calls the OCPA Impact legal challenge to State Question 779 a "delay tactic."
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Amber England, the director of Stand for Children Oklahoma, calls the OCPA Impact legal challenge to State Question 779 a "delay tactic."

Supporters of a ballot measure that would increase the sales tax in Oklahoma by one percent and generate about $615 million per year say a legal challenge against the proposal is simply a delay tactic.

The lobbying arm of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs filed the lawsuit Thursday, alleging the measure’s title and summary are inaccurate and misleading. But proponents of State Question 779 say the ballot measure is the only viable option on the table to raise teacher salaries.

Daxon Shackleford is entering his junior year at Muldrow Public Schools in eastern Oklahoma. He says his seventh grade reading teacher left Oklahoma for a better paying job in Arkansas. He wants to prevent educators from fleeing the state.

“That’s what I’m asking today, is just for the chance to let my parents or my teachers or just my fellow Oklahomans to vote, just to let them vote on State Question 779 so maybe we can keep the best educators in the state and we can help my classmates,” Shackleford said.

Stand for Olahoma’s Children executive director Amber England says her group will file a brief in court on July 1 that will address the lawsuit’s allegations.

“We got the 300,000 signatures in record time. The Supreme Court certified our signatures, and now they filed a protest. This is another delay tactic,” England said.

Dave Bond of OCPA Impact told The Tulsa World’s Barbara Hoberock the ballot summary, or gist, fails to tell voters how the money would be allocated:

Bond said the gist failed to explain that sales and use taxes will be on top of those levied by the state, county and municipalities across the state. “The gist suggests that funds raised by this new tax increase will be used to improve college affordability,” Bond said. “That is a big selling point to a lot of people on why they would potentially support it. But when you read the full proposal, it in no way requires funds to be used for this purpose.” The gist inaccurately says funds can’t be used for administrative salaries, but the proposal only prohibits funds from being used to increase superintendent salaries or add new superintendent positions, Bond said. “The gist fails to notify voters how the new monies will be allocated, even though over 40 percent of the money from this new tax increase will not go to teacher salaries,” he said.

The state Supreme Court threw out a previous OCPA Impact lawsuit against the measure.

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