Oklahoma Parents Quixotic Quest Illustrates Consequences of State Budget Cuts
KTUL, Tulsa Oklahoma’s ABC affiliate, posted an article on their website about the efforts of parents in the Bixby, OK school district to raise $1,700,000 to offset the budget cuts made by the state. KTUL reported that Bridge the Gap, a non-profit organization created by parent and school board member Julie Prox had thus far raised $140,000 through small voluntary contributions and the willingness of Doc’s Country Mart, one small business in town, to chip in $2,000. Doc’s Country Mart “… also donated 40 cases of water to the Bridge the Gap golf tournament and paid the Bixby cheerleaders to come out to the country mart and raise funds for Bridge the Gap.”
Needless to say, golf tournaments, paid appearances by cheerleaders, and small donations from parents is no way to fund public education. A broad based tax is the best way… and Oklahoma’s decision to reduce income taxes over the years has undermined school funding. The result is that those making more that $21,000 per year have a lower tax rate and local school budgets, like those in Bixby, are required to offset the funds through increased property taxes or take desperate measures. According to an analysis done by the Oklahoma Policy Institute, “If personal income tax rates had remained at their 2005 levels, the Legislature would have had $1.022 billion more revenue available for appropriation in the fiscal year that started July 1, 2015 (FY 2016).” The Oklahoma legislature, yielding to the desires of the .1%, have enacted tax policies that take money away from public education and put it in the pockets of those with extraordinary wealth. An individual with an income of $30,000 unarguably benefits from a reduction in the marginal tax rate from 6.65% to 4.85%: they saved $540. The individuals in Oklahoma who are millionaires, though, REALLY benefit: they saved $18,000. The losers as a result of this are tax funded agencies and the agencies that suffered most in Oklahoma were those serving children raised in poverty.
And here’s what’s really sad: the affluent communities in Oklahoma can increase property taxes and offset the cuts while the less wealthy districts are stuck with underfunded and decrepit schools.