Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Helping Oklahoma Public Education Initiative Announcement Met with Criticism

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Helping Oklahoma Public Education Initiative Announcement Met with Criticism

Article excerpt

The people of Oklahoma are on our side, Lisa Connery, spokesperson for the Helping Oklahoma Public Education (HOPE) initiative, said Monday. The campaign delivered more than 238,000 signatures to the secretary of state's office in support of the organization's proposal to fund public schools.

But the announcement was met by criticism from other groups who say they side with the people of Oklahoma in their opposition of the proposal. The HOPE initiative, if successful at the ballot, would result in significant cuts in state services and/or tax increases, say opponents.

The initiative petition would change the Oklahoma Constitution to require the Legislature to provide funding to public education at a level that matches the average of what surrounding states spend per pupil. The HOPE initiative does not acknowledge that some of Oklahoma's neighboring states enjoy a total budget many times the size of Oklahoma's total state budget.

Yet, initiative petition circulators were able to collect 238,000 signatures since Aug. 6 , said Connery - almost 100,000 more signatures than are required by law to get the measure on the ballot in 2010, delivered two weeks earlier than was required.

"It is evident from the vast number of signatures collected that public education remains a priority in the lives of Oklahomans, said Connery, a Norman physician and parent to four children attending public schools.

Connery was joined at the podium by Jeff Mills, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association; Roy Bishop, president of the Oklahoma Education Association; and other representatives of teacher advocacy groups. OEA has filed a lawsuit against the state of Oklahoma, charging that the state does not adequately fund education.

The HOPE initiative would increase Oklahoma's per-pupil funding from $6,900 per year to $8,300 per pupil, increasing the annual amount provided for public education by $850 million a year. Bishop said the increase would be funded by state growth revenues; over the last five years, state revenues have increased by $2 billion a year, he said. …

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