Similar to State Question 800, State Question 801 has potential ramifications for education budgets and schools. Unlike SQ 800, however, SQ 801 concerns some specifics of school funding that get deep into the weeds of existing policies.
One could spend considerable time explaining millage rates and how they apply to property taxes with regard to school funding. With only a few days remaining until the election, however, suffice to say that SQ 801 would increase flexibility for local school districts to determine how they spend their ad valorem tax revenue.
At its core, SQ 801 would amend the state constitution to allow monies currently dedicated for the building, repairing or remodeling of physical structures to be able to be used for school operations instead — operations like teacher salaries.
A poll conducted by SoonerPoll.com and published Tuesday by News On 6 illustrates strong support for the measure.
Full text of SQ 801’s ballot language is embedded at the bottom of this post.
Proponents: It couldn’t hurt
As part of the Oklahoma State Chamber’s ongoing Yes on the Last 3 advocacy campaign (which has purchased advertising on NonDoc), chamber officials support SQ 801. Bullet points listed on the page linked above include lifting restrictions on classroom spending and increasing local control.
Likewise, The Oklahoman editorial board favors the measure, concluding Oct. 17 that, “We don’t believe SQ 801 is a dramatic game-changer, but it could facilitate better fiscal management in Oklahoma schools.”
Last, in a debate hosted Sept. 24 by The Oklahoman, Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Stitt stated his support for SQ 801, and Libertarian hopeful Chris Powell favors its passage as well.
Opponents: ‘Lipstick on a pig’
At the very end of its 131-page 2018 election guide, the Oklahoma Education Association states its opposition to SQ 801. Concerns include a potential widening of the gap between rich and poor districts, among others.
Likewise, the Oklahoma State School Board Association points out in a fact sheet several areas of concern (although its Advocacy page avoids denouncing SQ 801 as strongly as it opposes SQ 800). Primarily, the OSSBA criticizes the failure of SQ 801 to generate new revenue for the state’s schools.
From the print media, perhaps the prize for folksiest op-ed headline should go to the Stillwater News Press: SQ 801 puts lipstick on a pig. The author(s) claim the Legislature merely plays at improving education funding while failing to actually increase it:
In reality, they are, once again, creating the appearance of action while they are doing nothing to increase school funding or help schools deliver on their missions to educate the next generation.
(The same commentary also appeared in the Muskogee Daily Phoenix, albeit with an underwhelming headline.)
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Drew Edmondson opposes the measure as well.