Statement: With failure of SQ 779, lawmakers must take responsibility for restoring school funding

Oklahoma Policy Institute released the following statement on the failure of SQ 779, the sales tax increase for education:

SQ 779 did not reach majority support even though Oklahomans widely acknowledge that we must improve school funding. The results of this vote show that many believed that SQ 779 was the wrong solution to the right problem. Many voters were not willing to add to the sales tax — our state’s most regressive major tax, which takes the biggest share of income from low-income seniors and working families — after years of income tax cuts heavily slanted to benefit the wealthiest Oklahomans. Going forward, lawmakers must find a more balanced approach to restore school funding. The failure of SQ 779 does not take lawmakers off the hook, because our state’s children and economic future still depend on better funding of schools and teachers.


Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

13 thoughts on “Statement: With failure of SQ 779, lawmakers must take responsibility for restoring school funding

  1. These are the exact reasons after much soul searching, having invested my life in education and equity, I eventually decided to vote no on SQ779. Thank you for being a voice of reason.

  2. Schools currently have 1.6 billion dollars in surplus money. The adminstrators and school boards choose to not spend this on raises. Consolidation of schools will save money. We have entirely too much waste. The legislature has done it’s job of funding. 35% of the state budget goes to education. Schools themselves must fix the labor cost.

  3. My vote was NO – and my husband is a teacher. Remember gaming, oh and the lottery? Consolidate and then I’llvote yes.

  4. We must first get rid of all the new charter schools and virtual schools that this legislature and Gov. has added. Then we can talk about consolidation! Oklahoma teachers deserve better than this and if anyone new anything about Oklahoma school finances you would know that schools must keep fund balances to maintain cash flows throughout the school year.

  5. I voted no as well. I want nothing more than to boost education here but not at the expense of people who can’t afford it to begin with. Not to mention that most of the money doesn’t even go to the raise in pay! Common OK, we can do better than that! Let’s be genuine, invest in education the right way.

  6. I also voted no, however, we must not let our legislators believe we do not want more funding for education. Consolidating school districts may be necessary, but, consolidation has NOTHING to do with the fact we provide less funding per student than the rest of the country. If we need some re-redistricting, get it done, but ultimately our legislators must commit more funding to education or we all will suffer the consequences.

  7. While I agree using a regressive sales tax to fund education is problematic, I do not see any indication that the legislature will adequately fund public education any time in the near future. The legislature has repeatedly ignored demands for adequate education funding. Now they can point to the failure of SQ 779 to “prove” that Oklahomans do not support tax increases to fund education. What do we say to the inadequately prepared students who show up ten years from now at the college or university door, only to be told that they can’t come in because they don’t make the grade.

  8. I voted no. I believe we need to do something, but raising taxes isn’t the solution. I want to know how Oklahoma Education decides where to spend money and why it seems to be getting wasted. We need better checks and balances.

  9. Please check my math. 1cent=$600M 42,000 teachers X $5000 a Year raise = $210,000.00 were is the other almost 2/3 of the increase go? Boren and his cohearts already had a plan for that without stating it. More backroom deals, an Oklahoma trade mark. The Citzens said a resounding NO !!!!

  10. Jimbo, instead of doing math, you should have read 779.It spells out exactly who received it and in what proportion. Your math is incorrect.

  11. If you would have taken time to read the bill, in lieu of listening to biased media and other unreliable sources, you would know that its wording made the allocation of the funds air tight. If we are speaking and writing about education, or in so many cases, the lack thereof, please edit for errors!

  12. Obviously, we have learned now that the majority of voters thought that SQ 779 was the wrong solution to Oklahoma’s education woes. While most of the money would have been used to give teachers a pay raise, the advertising for the proposition was misleading because it said nothing about the money going to higher education…voters don’t like to be deceived and it makes them think the worst, right or wrong! Education funding and increasing teachers’ salaries continue to be a priority and need bold leadership rather than lip service from our legislators. There are ways…we just need leaders who have the will. Here are a few ways that deserve serious consideration… and maybe we should let the people vote on them if the Legislature doesn’t have the courage to make hard choices. Raise gasoline and diesel taxes (currently among lowest in Nation)to help fund roads and bridges and begin weaning ODOT from eating General Revenue funds. These two taxes should be viewed as user fees and in general, user fees are easily understood and palatable to most citizens. School districts’ administrative expenses must be addressed…savings on payroll processing are just one example. Tax incentives can be a boon sometimes but usually end up being a boondoggle if not administered properly…we the people need to hold our legislators more accountable in this area…the special interests lobbyists keep winning the battle on this issue. And rather than raising the state’s sales tax, let’s take a hard look at repealing some of the exemptions (Thunder basketball tickets would be a good start).

  13. All this ‘wrong solution / right problem’ rhetoric would be more persuasive if the same people expressing such concern over funding public ed and paying teachers hadn’t voted back in almost every crazy right-wing education hating incumbent on the ballot, and sent them plenty of company from new candidates. Something like a total of 5 pro-education candidates won their districts.

    If you genuinely wanted better solutions, and voted no on SQ779 as a result, you’d have voted in better legislators. What this state voted for by substantial majorities was more of the same – more of the past five or six years – more tax breaks for the top sliver of the wealthy – more cuts to public education – more subsidized white flight via vouchers – more gun fetish – more Islamaphobia and gay-bashing and hateful rhetoric with Jesus’ name slapped on top. Let’s at least be consistent and honest about what this election told us as a whole – locally and nationally. “We really care about education for all the little children, red and yellow, black and white” is NOT it.

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