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Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite ending veto referendum efforts

Ponca City Now - July 2, 2018 4:35 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite announced Monday they are ending their veto referendum efforts to roll back tax increases approved by the Legislature to help fund a teacher pay raise.

Organizer Ronda Vuillemont-Smith said Monday the state Supreme Court’s recent decision to toss out their ballot initiative didn’t leave the group enough time to gather the 42,000 signatures they needed to place the question on the November ballot.

The anti-tax group led by ex-U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn was seeking a public vote to repeal tax hikes on cigarettes, fuel and energy production.

But the Supreme Court ruled a description of the proposal on signature pages was insufficient and that its ballot title is misleading. The court said the group would have to start over and gather new signatures by July 18.

OEA President Alicia Priest issued a statement on the announcement:

“Oklahoma must recruit and retain highly qualified educators, shrink our overcrowded classes, and bring back cut courses and extracurriculars.” Priest said. “To make that happen, we need competitive wages and fully funded schools.

“Oklahomans stood behind teachers during the walkout, voted for teachers at the polls last week and denounced the Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite petition from the beginning. We are grateful this issue is behind us and the new funding is secure.

“Now it’s time to turn to runoff elections in August and the general election in November. Oklahoma needs lawmakers who understand that what was achieved in April is only the beginning,” Priest said.

STATEMENT FROM OKLAHOMA STATE SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SHAWN HIME ON END OF VETO REFERENDUM EFFORT

Shawn Hime, Oklahoma State School Boards Association Executive Director, also issued a statement.

“For months, uncertainty has cast a shadow over the bold, bipartisan legislative action that led to the state’s largest teacher-ever pay raise and a significant increase in support for public education. Finally, Oklahoma’s teachers can be assured they will receive the pay raise they have so long deserved,” Hime said.

“The teacher shortage is still growing, and the state is on pace to exceed last year’s record number of emergency teaching certificates issued,” he said. “The pay raise isn’t a silver bullet, but it is key to stemming the hemorrhage of teachers out of the state and to other professions and to recruiting well-prepared educators to our classrooms.

“I remain extremely grateful to the legislators who understood the value of this critical investment and to our educators who have remained committed to Oklahoma’s children,” Hime said. “OSSBA and its members are eager to work with the next legislature and public education advocates to ensure this new investment is a building block for additional future education investment. Our class sizes are still too large, schools have too many unfilled teaching vacancies and too many academic and extracurricular programs have fallen to the wayside because of anemic financial support.

“We have more work to do, but increasing teacher pay to a regionally competitive level is a tremendous start,” he said.

 

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