University of Oklahoma President David Boren and his education advocacy group filed a petition with the Secretary of State Wednesday that will ask voters to support a one-cent sales tax increase to fund education.
“Are our kids worth a penny?” Boren asked his listeners at the state Capitol.
Various estimates say the tax could cost an Oklahoma family anywhere from $75 to $250 a year.
If Boren and his bi-partisan group, called Oklahoma’s Children- Our Future, collect enough signatures, the sales tax will go to a vote of the people on the general election ballot in November 2016.
“Because we believe that every person in Oklahoma should have a chance to come forward and help us find a solution for the education and economic crisis in our state,” Boren said. “Let the people vote!”
Boren said the one cent-sales tax would generate around $615 million annually and would go in to a newly created Education Improvement Fund. K-12 schools would receive 69.5 percent of the fund, or approximately $424 million per year specifically for raising teacher’s salaries $5,000. None of the funds would go to administrative costs.
The proceeds would also provide funding for local school district’s performance-based pay increases and differential pay to address teacher shortages. There would also be funds for local school districts to implement reforms aimed at increasing reading ability in early grades, boosting high school graduation rates and improving college and career readiness.
Under the plan Higher Education would receive 19.25 percent of the fund, or about $120 million to address rising tuition costs and to increase college completion rates. Another 8 percent, or $50 million, would to go the state Department of Education to award grants for early learning opportunities for low-income and at-risk children.
The remaining 3.25 percent, totally about $20 million would be allotted to increase workforce readiness and industry certifications for Oklahoma businesses through the CareerTech system.
Oklahoma is currently 49th in the nation for per-pupil funding and is 48th in starting teacher pay. The state is also undergoing a massive teacher shortage, which many education officials attribute to the low pay, and lack of financial support.