Can you imagine spending a quarter of a million dollars to stop average funding for Oklahoma school children?
That’s exactly what the Association of Oklahoma General Contractors did when it recently contributed $250,000 to the One Oklahoma Coalition, which is working to defeat State Question 744, according to a report filed with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.
(The report was also apparently submitted late. It was dated May 14, 2010. According to ethic rules: “For committees supporting or opposing ballot measures, reports must be submitted no later than the 10th day of each month to include all contributions and expenditures during the previous month.”)
If approved SQ 744, which does not raise taxes, would require state government to fund schools at the regional average. The 2008-2009 numbers show Oklahoma is last in per-pupil funding when compared to Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. The state ranks 46th nationally in student spending.
Other organizations, which have contributed to One Oklahoma Coalition, include The State Chamber ($45,000), Tulsa Metro Chamber ($50,000), Oklahoma Farm Bureau Affiliates ($50,000) and Forward OKC III ($50,000). The coalition raised $445,00 in April and has $429,369 in remaining funds.
Ironically, Forward OKC III, which is part of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, has this statement of purpose on a web page: “Create, implement and manage activities to assure that central Oklahoma will have the highest quality educated and skilled workforce possible.”
So let’s get this bit of hypocrisy straight: The Forward OKC III organization thinks educated and skilled people are great and all that, but it’s spending $50,000 to ensure Oklahoma retains the lowest per-pupil spending rate in the region.
The main public relations problem these organizations face in their overall campaign against SQ 744 is this: How can you be against “average” student funding for Oklahoma’s children?
Former House Speaker Todd Hiett is listed as chairperson of One Oklahoma Coalition. Fred Morgan, the current president of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, is listed as treasurer.
Yes on 744, the main organization supporting the question, has approximately $272,000 in remaining funds. One of its biggest donors has been the National Education Association, which recently gave HOPE $240,000.