Education Funding

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A group wanting to raise gross production taxes is gearing up after the failure of Step Up Oklahoma.

Restore Oklahoma Now is proposing State Question 795 to raise GPT to 7% which will bring in an extra $288 million with most of that going to common education.

Executive Director Mickey Thompson says he delayed pushing forward while Step Up Oklahoma worked its way through the State Capitol.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Oklahoma lawmakers have butted heads for years over how to increase funding for education, but one recurring idea has been to give schools more flexibility in spending the money they already have.

A new bill filed by Sen. Josh Brecheen, R-Coalgate, is the most recent attempt to do this.

The Economist looks at education in Oklahoma, where teacher pay is low and budgets have been cut 28.2% since 2008, the biggest reduction in the country.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

Mickey Thompson has a manila envelope tucked under his arm as he walks towards the Oklahoma Capitol. If the paperwork doesn’t start a fight, it almost certainly will add fuel to one.

Inside the envelope is the handiwork of about 10 people over a couple of months that could clear a path for Oklahoma voters to do something most lawmakers won’t consider: Enact broad tax hikes on oil and gas production to help fund public education.

StateImpact Oklahoma

2017 is wrapping up, but the growing group of reporters at StateImpact are following many important government policy issues that will carry on into the new year.

Senior Reporter and Managing Editor Joe Wertz brought the StateImpact team into the studio for a preview of their coverage in the year to come. Here are some excerpts from the conversation edited for clarity:

HEALTH

Joe Wertz: Give me the big picture for the new year.

AND THE REST/FLICKR / CC BY-SA 2.0

When Moore Public Schools Superintendent Robert Romines asked some of his high school students what the district could do better, they told him they needed more help with mental health.

“I was a bit shocked,” Romines says.

More and more of Oklahoma’s teenagers are dealing with mental illness, and the increase has caught a few school administrators off guard.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact Oklahoma

A group led by a long-time energy industry leader wants Oklahoma voters to approve an increase in taxes on oil and gas production to help fund public education.

Currently, taxes on oil and gas production are discounted for the first three years making the effective tax rate somewhere around 3.2 percent. Mickey Thompson with Restore Oklahoma Now on Wednesday filed the paperwork for State Question 795 to increase that rate to 7 percent across-the-board.

It's inevitable. Each year, teachers dip into their own pockets to buy things like notebooks, tissues and pencils for their students.

This inevitability is even enshrined in the tax code, which gives educators a $250 deduction for their trouble. Late last week, in hammering out their big tax overhaul, Republicans decided to preserve that deduction. So we thought we would ask teachers how much of their own money they spend each year.

The answer: more than $250.

Emily Wendler / KOSU

Education leaders in Oklahoma say Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive order on school consolidation oversimplified a very complicated issue.

The November 21 order directs school districts that don’t spend at least 60 percent of their budget on instruction to consolidate administrative staff with other districts. A strict interpretation of this rule would force most Oklahoma school districts to cut an administrator, or a support staff person, and then find a way to split that cost with a neighboring district.

This Week in Oklahoma Politics, Republican Political Consultant Neva Hill and ACLU Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel talk about Governor Fallin vetoing a budget bill and telling lawmakers they would have to return for a second special session and then turning around and calling on common and higher education officials to find efficiencies in their budgets to include possible consolidation of schools.

The trio also discusses the 8.8% pay cut by the Legislative Compensation Commission and a signature petition to increase teacher pay in Oklahoma City comes up short.

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