OCPA’s Jonathan Small responds to Oklahoma Education Association’s demand for $1.4 billion spending boost

Oklahoma City – This week, the Oklahoma Education Association pushed for a spending boost in financing for public schools that would total over $3 billion over a three-year period. The organization and several school districts are planning an early April statewide teachers strike if the spending hike is not forthcoming.

Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), released the following statement on Thursday (March 8):
“The OEA did not release a plan. Instead, the union, which represents a small percentage of Oklahoma teachers, released a set of demands with a total cost of $3.3 billion over three years. And, less than half of that money would go to teachers.
“The annual cost of the OEA’s demands, by year three, would be $1.4 billion. This is larger than any revenue package seriously considered by the Legislature in recent years.”

OCPA staff prepared a chart documenting projected costs for the OEA plan, which circulated to state news organizations, including CapitolBeatOK.
“Teachers need a raise, just like our schools need reforms, but the goal should always be to improve student outcomes. That, obviously, is not served by a strike. And recent reporting in the Tulsa World suggests that many teachers are far more concerned about working conditions than they are about money. The OEA wants a narrow conversation about money, but the union’s own recent polling shows most Oklahomans are concerned about ‘accountability’ (62 percent) and ‘personal responsibility’ (39 percent) more than “investment” (27 percent).
“The Legislature should pass a teacher raise, coupled with reforms that put more control over pay in the hands of local districts. And there are many ways to give teachers a raise without increasing their taxes. If lawmakers are set on raising taxes to fund a teacher pay raise, we urge them to focus on the least damaging tax increases: increasing from two percent to five percent the gross production tax (during the incentive period) and a 75 cent per pack cigarette tax.”

Small’s statement concluded: 
“Efficiencies and reforms include eliminating cash subsidies for wind and other renewable energy generation, cutting fraud in Medicaid, eliminating subsidies to filmmakers, and reforming the Commissioners of the Land Office and Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) which together control funds worth more than $3.5 billion) to direct some of their existing resources to teachers.”