OCPA says OEA’s silence on ‘diversion’ of school funds is deafening
Published: May 5th, 2019
OKLAHOMA CITY – Just days after declaring strong opposition to tax credit legislation because such bills supposedly divert money from public schools, the Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) has abandoned that stance and ignored millions in new tax credits, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA) President Jonathan Small observed last week.
“I wish I could say I am surprised by the OEA’s flip-flop and hypocrisy,” Small said, “but it’s been clear for months that the OEA doesn’t care about protecting funding for schools. What the union really objects to is giving low-income and needy children greater educational opportunity and better life outcomes.”
This session, legislators have sought to allow up to $30 million in tax credits to be issued through the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act. (https://capitolbeatok.worldsecuresystems.com/reportsEducation,-and-parent-advocates-disappointed-as-legislators-fail-to-back-tax-credit-scholarships) That law provides a tax credit to those who donate private funds to organizations that provide private-school scholarships to the needy or help pay for public-school programs.
The OEA loudly objected, claiming the tax credit reduced available funding for public schools. One OEA tweet claimed state government “cannot afford to give away money to the super wealthy at the expense of Oklahoma children.”
Yet in the past week, lawmakers have advanced (http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf/2019-20%20SUPPORT%20DOCUMENTS/votes/House/HB2095_VOTES.HTM) tax-break legislation that provides $20 million in annual tax credits for converting vehicles to compressed natural gas (extending a tax break set to expire). They’ve also voted (http://webserver1.lsb.state.ok.us/cf/2019-20%20SUPPORT%20DOCUMENTS/votes/House/SB200_VOTES.HTM ) to double rebate payments to film productions from $4 million to $8 million and even repeal the rebate cap entirely for some films.
Both bills passed with little opposition.
A press release from OCPA pointed out that the OEA issued no action alerts and said nothing on its social media outlets even though both measures would reduce available state funding that could go to schools.
“When a tax credit will generate millions in funding to help public schools and benefit homeless children, students needing addiction treatment, and low-income families stuck in bad schools, the OEA mans the barricades,” Small said in a press release dated May 1 (sent to CapitolBeatOK and other news organizations). “But when a tax credit benefits Hollywood moguls or CNG hobbyists, the union is nowhere to be seen. That really says it all.”
Polling conducted by WPA Intelligence and commissioned by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs shows 60 percent of Oklahomans support raising the cap on the tax-credit scholarship program. Only 23 percent were opposed.