University of Oklahoma President and former U.S. Sentator David Boren has formed a coalition, “Oklahoma’s Children — Our Future,” to work to increase the state sales tax by one cent to boost educational funding.
Boren is calling the state of education in Oklahoma a crisis, citing low teacher salaries ($44,373 on average), the more than 1,000 emergency teaching certificates issued to meet the demand for teachers, and the state’s status as 49th out of 50 in amount of spending per pupil.
Of the $615 million the sales tax increasewould raise, the majority–$378 million–would fund teacher salaries. Clearly, attracting quality teachers with very low comparably salaries is a challenge.
The remaining funds would be allocated for grants for reforms like incentive pay, early childhood programs, vocation and technology education. Higher education would receive $125 million to stabilize tuition costs. None of the money would fund administrative expenses.
In order to appear on the ballot in November 2016, the coalition must collect 65,987 signatures in a 90 day period.
Oklahoma already has “one of the highest combined average local and state sales tax rates in the country,” according to The Oklahoman.