During a recent chat on Facebook, myself, Rick Cobb (okeducationtruths) and several other passionate advocates for Oklahoma public education decided to launch an important campaign. Because we believe so strongly in what we are proposing, we decided to post simultaneously tonight.
We would love to have your help and support.
Before I share our plan, I want you to consider the following facts:
- According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, when adjusted for inflation, Oklahoma’s general per-pupil funding dropped 24 percent between the 2008 and 2016 school years.
- After inflation, the initial FY2016 state aid formula for public schools was $376 million less than in FY 2008, even as schools are tasked with educating about 50,000 additional students.
- The FY 2016 budget reflected an initial $611 million dollar shortfall. To cover a portion of this, $150 million was appropriated from the state Rainy Day Fund for budget stabilization. The remaining balance is about $385 million.
- Because state revenues fell below the 95% threshold required by law, a state revenue failure was announced in December, triggering $176.2 million in cuts in agency allocations for the current budget year.
- The State Board of Education approved a $46.7 million funding cut for the fiscal year ending June 30, including a $25 million reduction in funding that goes to schools. This may force the closing of schools in Oklahoma THIS year.
- The Oklahoma Board of Equalization met in December and approved an estimate of $6,059,238,267 in revenue available for the governor to prepare her fiscal year 2017 executive budget proposal. That amount is $900.8 million, or 12.9 percent, less than the previous fiscal year.
- According to Budget Director, Preston Doerflinger, this amount may increase to $1.1 billion by the time the Board releases their final report in February.
- Despite the state’s fiscal challenges, state lawmakers refuse to stall the implementation of a 0.25 percent rate reduction for 1.7 million Oklahomans. Taxpayers with federal adjusted gross incomes of $40,000 to $44,999 a year can expect to save about $35 a year.
- Using the tax calculator provided on the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s website, my monthly checks may increase by as much as $12 during 2016.
Here’s the bottom line.
I don’t need that extra twelve bucks a month. While this would provide one extra night out at McDonald’s for my wife and me each month, or even a large drink and bucket of popcorn at the movies, it is money we can easily do without.
Since the Governor and state legislators are too prideful, or ignorant, or both—to do the right thing and stop this income tax reduction—we are left with no choice. I refuse to be a hypocrite and accept this money when I know essential services are being cut across our state. Therefore, on April 15, 2016, I will be redirecting the full amount of my income tax cut ($144) to support students in my school district.
While I understand that this must be a personal decision for you and your family, I would encourage others to join my family in “Giving it BACK.”
You can choose to donate your to your local school or district, to your favorite charity, or give it to a pro-education candidate up for election this year. Thanks to Seth Meier for that idea!
Maybe we should all just donate our refunds to candidates that are pro #oklaed
— Seth Meier (@SethMeier) January 10, 2016
WE do have the power to circumvent the ignorance and hubris of our elected officials.
While the amount of money involved may be seemingly insignificant, the potential message to our lawmakers can be powerful. However, to do this–to TRULY make a difference–we need thousands of you to join us.
Go to the OPI calculator to compute your tax reduction. Then decide how you will use your donation to make a difference in your school or community. If you can do more, do more. If you need ideas for where to give, call your local school and ask where they need help. I guarantee they will have ideas.
Tell other people what you’re doing. Write a letter to your local newspaper saying you gave it back. Post it to your social media platforms. Tweet it to the world using the hashtag #GiveItBackOK. Be one of thousands of Oklahoma citizens who will make a difference for kids and schools.
We thank you for your support!
Image Credit: Angela Clark Little