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Oklahoma School Boards Group Says SQ 779 Would Pay For Raises, Little Else

Stacey Haynes goes over spelling words with her third-grade class in Washington, Okla.
Brent Fuchs
The Journal Record
Stacey Haynes goes over spelling words with her third-grade class in Washington, Okla.

State Question 779 could bring in millions for schools in the Oklahoma City metro, but the proportional breakdown means the smallest districts would receive just a few thousand dollars.

If the 1 percent sales tax passes in November, fewer than 100 school districts will get more than $1 million extra per year, according to analysis by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. Some of the money earmarked for public schools would go to mandatory teacher pay raises. The rest is for academic improvements, The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt reports:

OSSBA Executive Director Shawn Hime said schools would be able to use the money on a mandatory $5,000 teacher pay raise, plus incentives to recruit and retain educators. Other revenue earmarked for public schools would go toward academic programs meant to improve graduation rates and college readiness. “You could hire additional teachers to reduce class size, which would be a research-based approach to improving academic achievement,” Hime said. But some districts might not even have that option. “For the most part, small schools would have to spend (revenue) on the $5,000 raise and other small initiatives,” Hime said. “They would not have enough money for additional teachers.”

The money would be divided based on the number of students in a district. More students, more money. But many things cost the same no matter where you are in the state.

Oklahoma City Public Schools could use some of its extra $26 million to hire new teachers. But some districts won’t have enough left over for even one salary after they give current teachers an extra $5,000.

The OSSBA’s analysis shows Washington Public Schools in McClain County would get an extra $560,395 from the proposed 1-percent sales tax. Superintendent A.J. Brewer said that after raises, he’s not yet sure how the money might be spent. “What does that mean for us?” Brewer said. “It’s kind of hard to exactly say what it would mean for us but it could mean additional reading programs, which could be extended-day or extended-year programs. It could mean counseling services, when you’re talking about graduation rates and college readiness and counseling opportunities. It could mean computer-based learning programs to increase reading or learning through use of technology, and those are just some thoughts.” Brewer said the money could help pay for programs that have suffered because of other budget woes. “That allows you to do some of these additional things that we end up having to cut back on,” he said.

Along with going to local public schools, the sales tax revenue would be divided among higher education and CareerTech sites.

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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