Capitol Beat OK

Brad Henry leads powerful coalition determined to defeat State Question 744

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 21-Spe-2010

The One Oklahoma Coalition has brought together under one “big tent” the most diverse and determined grouping of influential organizations and individuals in recent state history. Governor Brad Henry’s announcement today that he would serve as coalition chairman was a dramatic move to build on opposition themes in the closing weeks of the State Question 744 campaign. 

The coalition organized to defeat S.Q. 744 is a non-partisan group that includes Oklahoma Farm Bureau, The TRUST Road & Bridge Coalition, The Oklahoma City American Federation of Teachers, the AFL-CIO, International Laborers, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Tulsa Metro Chamber, The State Chamber, Oklahoma Public Employees Association, American Farmers and Ranchers, Association of General Contractors, Oklahoma Bankers Association, the Oklahoma Hospital Association and dozens of other associations and organizations throughout the state.

CapitolBeatOK provided a more exhaustive listing of the coalition membership in a story on September 16.

In a statement sent today (September 21) to CapitolBeatOK, the One Oklahoma Coalition said, “One of the main tenets of the coalition’s opposition to S.Q. 744 stems from the fact there are no accountability measures or guarantees that any of the funds from SQ 744 must be spent in the classroom or for teacher pay.

“One Oklahoma also believes public policy should be advanced in a manner that improves all areas of state government including public safety, roads and bridges, healthcare, protecting the state’s most vulnerable, and other aspects of education such as early childhood, higher education and CareerTech – all of which would suffer if SQ 744 passed.”

A group of labor union leaders announced opposition to S.Q. 744 on September 16. Speaking out against the measure that day were Ed Allen, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO) and Jimmy Curry of the state AFL-CIO.

Dr. Alexander Holmes, who helped fashion Governor Henry Bellmon’s historic House Bill 1017, and Dr. Larkin Warner, an architect of the MAPS for Kids process in Oklahoma City, articulated their opposition to reporters at the state Capitol on September 7.

In July, David Blatt of the Oklahoma Policy Institute provided some of the earliest detailed analysis of the proposition, concluding that it was bad for public education, especially from his perspective as an advocate of increased government funding of schools. After advocates of the proposition slammed his analysis, Blatt and OK Policy board members defended their analysis and deepened their critique of provisions in the initiative. 

Michael Carnuccio of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) has been among the strongest critics of the controversial ballot measure, questioning the premise of initiative sponsors that increasing spending yields higher student performance. He has also provided analysis that actual government spending on public education is understated in most reports.

Agricultural producers and businesses, among the strongest advocates of public education, broke early against S.Q. 744, beginning outreach to rural opinion leaders in July. Mike Spradling of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau, Terry Detrick, president of American Farmers and Ranchers, and rural healthcare specialist Dr. Barry Pollard joined forces in a Capitol press conference.

In April, Sterling Zearley of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association found himself in a rare alliance with Fred Morgan of the State Chamber, Oklahoma’s association of business and industry. At the first in the series of press conferences and forums sponsored by the One Oklahoma Coalition, the two brought diverse reasons, joined by Spradling, to their fight against the measure, yielding the same conclusion: Vote No.