The Edmond Sun


July 23, 2010

SQ 744 debate needs facts, not hyperbole

EDMOND — The campaign over State Question 744 promises to be one of the most important battles waged during the next three months. On one side are those arguing for significant increases in education funding. On the other side are those that worry about funding cuts to other important government programs. For Oklahomans to make the right decision, they will need to have the best information.

This week the good folks at the Oklahoma Policy Institute did their part to inform Oklahomans when they released a new policy brief arguing that SQ 744 is “The Wrong Solution for Oklahoma.” SQ 744 would amend Oklahoma’s Constitution to require that Oklahoma’s per-pupil education funding would be at least equal to the average of the funding in neighboring states. While admitting that education funding in Oklahoma falls far short of desired levels, the Oklahoma Policy Institute report argues that funding for most government services in Oklahoma also falls far below the national average. As a result they offer four reasons why they oppose the measure:

1. “SQ 744 would ensure the severe underfunding of all other areas of state government.

2. “Budgets should not be determined by constitutional formula.

3. “The language in SQ 744 is unclear and does not reflect the reality of how we fund education, and

4. “SQ 744 is not the best means to achieve the goals of improving educational quality and outcomes.”

It is clear that passage of SQ 744 would significantly increase education funding in Oklahoma — a move that I believe is much-needed.

In 2008-09 Oklahoma’s per-pupil education funding was $8,006 — only 83 percent of the regional average. Compared to the rest of the nation Oklahoma fares even worse.

It also is clear that the passage of SQ 744 would lead either to less funding for other government programs or higher taxes on Oklahoma families. After all, additional funding for education has to come from somewhere — public education isn’t free. It is therefore important for Oklahoma voters to understand both the benefits and the costs of SQ 744 when deciding whether to approve this ballot measure. By providing important information, reports like the one released by the Oklahoma Policy Institute, are a valuable resource to help Oklahomans make an informed choice this November.

This does not mean that the Oklahoma Policy Institute report should be considered as the definitive report on the issue. While there are certainly valid reasons to be concerned about the passage of SQ 744, there also are some good reasons to support the measure.

This is what I hoped to hear from the “Yes on 744” campaign in response to the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s report. Instead, they offered a blistering press release which stated:

“It became obvious today that the Oklahoma Policy Institute and its Board have decided to push a special interest agenda and further their own interests at the expense of Oklahoma’s kids,” said Walton Robinson, Yes on 744 communications director. “The fact that the OPI Board voted to take a political position first should call any of their research into question. Any legitimate think tank would never put backroom deals before policy development. The apparent hijacking of a public policy advocate like OPI proves just how far champions of the status quo are willing to go to rob Oklahomans of the opportunity to give their kids a better future.”

This vicious attack on a respectable organization is both unfair and unwarranted. The Oklahoma Policy Institute has a long record of advocating for public policies that benefit Oklahoma’s children. To say that they are now throwing kids under the school bus is intellectually disingenuous. Oklahoma’s voters deserve better.

I urge the “Yes on 744” campaign to release a thoughtful response to the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s report. The response should acknowledge the concerns being raised by the Oklahoma Policy Institute (and others across the state), but make a compelling case for why Oklahoma voters need to make this commitment to public education. If, as the ballot measure’s supporters claim, the passage of SQ 744 would be good for our state, such a report should not be too hard to write, and would make the task facing Oklahoma voters much easier.

MICKEY HEPNER is an associate professor of economics at the University of Central Oklahoma. Hepner serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for The Oklahoma Academy.

Text Only
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014


Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

     View Results