School districts speaking out about State Question 801

LITTLE AXE, Okla. – On the eve of election day, an Oklahoma school district is speaking out regarding a state question involving school funding.

State Question 801 would give local school boards the option to use existing property tax revenue for use in the classroom, such as teacher pay and textbooks, without raising taxes. Currently, revenue is primarily used for building funds.

Oklahoma Achieves, an education initiative of the State Chamber of Oklahoma, says the measure would give school districts more flexibility when it comes to spending.

“It is hard to believe a teacher’s union opposes an effort to put more money in the classroom. SQ 801 gives local school boards flexibility to use existing money in the classroom for things like teacher pay, technology and textbooks without raising taxes,” executive director Jennifer Monies said in a statement to News 4. “This measure doesn’t require school districts to change anything unless it makes sense for their local community.”

However, officials with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association says the measure won’t end up helping schools.

“While we love flexibility, this is not going to be a solution to help schools have more money that they’re just sitting on or that they can’t spend on salaries or other things,” OSSBA executive director Shawn Hime said. “If a school did choose to take this money and put it in a recurring cost, an annual cost…then what do you do when you need a new roof? What do you do when your carpet wears out – just like in our home, we have to continue to take care of that maintenance and upkeep and if we’re not doing it with the building fund, then they have the funds to take care of it?”

“We don’t have enough to do everything we need to do. We always have ongoing maintenance repairs, facility issues that we need to deal with…roof repair, HVAC units,” Dr. April Grace, superintendent of Shawnee Public Schools, said. “There are all kinds of issues we’re constantly dealing with in our facilities with the age of the school buildings that many of us have.”

On Monday, Little Axe Public Schools Superintendent Jay Thomas released a statement regarding the upcoming state question.

"I have been asked many times about state question 801. The most common question is 'would the passage of this question help Little Axe Public School?' The answer is 'no,' the passage of state question 801 will not help at all. In fact, it could create problems for this and many other school districts across Oklahoma. Currently, the money in the building fund is intended to support the school as dedicated money to maintaining buildings and infrastructure of the school. As it is now, we do not receive enough money in the building fund to do this, and have to supplement building expenses from the general fund. Making this money available to use in the general fund may further complicate building and infrastructure maintenance issues."