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Protesting the Penny Tax: The fight over funding Oklahoma’s schools

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OKLAHOMA CITY - When it comes to our children's education in Oklahoma, we can all agree. We want the best teachers money can buy.

"Public school teachers in this state need, deserve, and should get as quickly as possible, a pay raise," says David Bond with OCPA Impact, a group that's taking the debate to the Capitol steps.

He says the problem is how we go about it.

They claim 40% of the money from the proposed penny tax increase won't even go to teachers or the classroom, but to unrelated areas. The practice is known as 'log rolling.'

"The concept of log-rolling is frowned upon because it usually involves taking something that people like, support and think would be a good thing, and lumping it together with stuff that on its own they might not feel as strongly in favor of," says Bond.

So, the group filed a formal protest with the Oklahoma Supreme Court, pointing to the 'single subject rule,' which limits initiatives placed before voters to one issue at a time. The rule came into play when the state lottery was placed before Oklahomans, giving them two clear-cut choices: one to fund the lottery itself, and one to fund education.

Supporters of the measure say it's all just a delay tactic.

"The issue's education. So the ballot measure insures that we are funding education," says Amber England with Stand for Children Oklahoma, the group that launched the initiative. "We are giving teachers a pay raise, we are making certain we are making critical investments in improving reading, increasing graduation rates, and college readiness."

They say it was proposed by University of Oklahoma President David Boren and seeks to bridge what he says is a billion dollar projected budget shortfall next year, ensuring that Oklahoma's 49th national education ranking won't fall further.

Supporters say not only is the penny tax the answer for next year, but it will provide permanent funding for Oklahoma's schools for years to come.

"The ballot measure that's been written by Oklahoma's Children and Our Future is a steady and permanent revenue source for ongoing needs for public education."

You can read OCPA Impact's entire challenge here.