ARDMORE, OK -- In a little less than a year, Oklahoma residents will go to polls to decide the fate of a proposed constitutional amendment that would mandate the state provide more funding to public schools. The measure is state question 744, dubbed "HOPE" or "Helping Oklahoma Public Education" by its creators.
According to national figures, Oklahoma ranks 46th in per student spending and last in our region, being more than $1,400 behind the area average. Supporters of the initiative say that gap needs to be bridged.
"Our Oklahoma kids deserve to have as much money spent on them as the students in Arkansas and the students in Texas,” said Becky Felts.
Felts is the President of the Oklahoma Education Association, and as a classroom veteran of more than 20 years she knows the importance of funding.
"Oklahoma schools are underfunded by about $1,500 per student. This project would generate more than $850-million toward education,” Felts said.
Right now the sooner state spends an average of $7,600 per student.
Supporters of SQ 744 say the initiative would pump millions of dollars into most public schools systems, and then the school boards would decide how to spend the funds.
"Here in Ardmore – that would be more than $4 million and it will be the Ardmore School Board that decides what the money needs to be spent on,” Felts explained.
The money could be spent on anything from buses to books, but where will it come from?
Felts says, if approved the imitative would be phased in over three year, and pay for itself through state economic growth. According to Felts, that means funds would not have to be taken from other state programs.
"The growth in economic revenue over the course the next years will fund SQ 744 without doing any harm to any other state services,” Felts stated.
Creators of the measure say when people go to the polls next year, the wording is very clear - this measure will not raise taxes.
Felts say State Question 744 is about investing in the future of the state.
"It's all about economic growth for Oklahoma. It’s all about investing in our students and having great trained students ready for the workforce,” Felts said.
Voters will decide on the matter of SQ 744 next November. The proposition will be the first state question on the ballot, and needs a simple majority to pass.