The Edmond Sun

November 12, 2013

LETTER: School funding vs. corporate incentives

Special to The Sun

EDMOND — To the Editor:

Lately, our state has been in the news regarding cuts in funding for schools. By some reports, funding per pupil has been reduced more than 20 percent between fiscal years 2008 and 2013. I am sure there is room for debate on the actual reduction, but it certainly seems that school funding is not a priority for our elected officials.

Given the importance of education, you have to wonder if the revenue is simply not there to provide the necessary funds to educate the children of our state.

We do seem, however, to have the revenue to provide significant “incentives” to companies in our state.

One of my favorite is the Quality Jobs Program that gives money to companies for hiring people that they would have hired anyway to do the work the company needs done. Seriously, would a company hire someone they didn’t need just to get a 5 percent incentive from the state? I don’t think so.

In fiscal year 2013, this program paid incentives of $78,921,081 to Oklahoma companies.

This is just one of many such programs in our state.

While there are many interesting contracts under this program, one of my favorites is the one with The Professional Basketball Club LLC. This company consists of a group of Oklahoma City executives who own both the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Tulsa 66ers.

The NBA website shows that Clayton Bennett leads this group and it includes seven other local executives. Under their Quality Jobs Program contract, they have received payments of $14,865,078 as of June 30. They receive about $3.3 million each year based on the payroll of the jobs they have created.

They haven’t created that many jobs, but all those well-paid NBA players make for high incentive payments.

So, if you think paying millions of dollars to the owners of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and many other state businesses, is more of a priority than funding our public schools then you should feel good. If you don’t think that then perhaps you should tell your state elected officials so they can do something about it.

Mark Lash