Signing Petition to Fund Education
Student Life Editor
Oklahomans are petitioning for a one-cent sales tax increase to fund K-12 and higher education and raise educators’ salaries by $5,000.
Petitioners have until May 16 to collect 124,000 signatures to ensure the issue is on the ballot in November.
Oklahoma currently has the sixth highest sales tax; however, if the sales tax is passed, the increase is expected to make $615 million each year for education.
University of Oklahoma President David Boren along with Oklahoma’s Children Are Our Future proposed petition 403, known as the penny tax, after $47 million was cut from Oklahoma’s education budget.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, since 2008, Oklahoma has cut per-student education funding by 24 percent, the largest reduction in the nation.
Petitioner for the Lawton area Sarah Grooms said the education cuts have resulted in less pay for educators and in turn has resulted in a teacher shortage, which is happening nationwide.
“Right now, Oklahoma is ranked 49th for the worst paid teachers,” Grooms said. “We’re having trouble keeping teachers here; we’re having trouble recruiting teachers here because they’re going to states around us like Kansas and Arkansas to get paid better.”
According to Sean Murphy from ap.org, “Deeper cuts were implemented for Advanced Placement teacher training and test-fee assistance (55 percent reduction), staff development for schools (50 percent) and school lunch matching funds (30 percent).
Money for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, education initiatives were completely eliminated.”
Grooms said she always has petitions with her to provide anyone the chance to sign.
“There’s about 200 people also circulating this petition,” Grooms said. “I’m the only one in Lawton circulating the petition – a lot of people are in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.”
However , there will be chances to sign the petition at East Central University March 10, Tulsa March 24, Ardmore March 28, and Oklahoma State University March 31.
Grooms said even though the group only needs 124,000 signatures, other petitioners are aiming for 200,000.
“We need 124,000 exact signatures,” she said, “but we’re looking at getting 200 signatures to know we have the support to get the issue on the ballot in November.”