Text of Dr. Pennington’s remarks on ad valorem lawsuit

Ponca City Now - March 29, 2016 1:40 pm

I am David Pennington, superintendent of Ponca City Public Schools and the spokesperson for Oklahoma Schools for Fair Funding.

On behalf of 48 urban, suburban and rural school districts from every part of the state, I am pleased to share with you that the Oklahoma State Supreme Court has been asked this morning to grant relief to taxpayers and school children . Many of the school districts are represented here today.

From 1992-2014, taxpayers in the counties where these school districts are located have paid additional taxes that, by law, were to remain with the local school districts. For 22 years children in our schools did not have the educational experience they deserved.

Neither the Oklahoma Tax Commission nor the Oklahoma Department of Education has followed the law until very recently.

As a consequence, the taxpayer’s funds that should have stayed in these local school districts have been diverted to other state funded school districts where taxpayers paid a lower rate.

This diversion of funds has not been fair to either the taxpayers or the children in these school districts. Because the taxpayers’ funds were diverted, the educational experience the taxpayers sought to provide for the children in our school districts has not been available. It is estimated that more than 150 school districts and hundreds of thousands of school children have been negatively impacted. How was the educational experience different for children in our schools? Let me share some examples:

Reduced funding has meant the children were in larger classes which reduced the time teachers could spend with each student.

Reduced funding meant children received less counseling for college and career preparation and less advice on how to get admitted to college or on programs that were available to assist with being admitted to better colleges.

Reduced funding meant children in crisis received little or no assistance to resolve those issues and succeed with their education. Children who may have benefitted from a behavior therapist or family crisis counselor found those services unavailable.

School funding issues can seem complicated. These issues we presented to the Oklahoma Supreme Court today are not.

Since 1992 Oklahoma law has provided that those counties that used a tax assessment ratio for Commercial and Agriculture Personal Property (what I will refer to today as CAPP) above 11% could retain the extra tax revenue for school funding.

Since the law was enacted its requirements were followed correctly for real property in counties with assessment ratios above 11%. Unfortunately the law was not followed correctly in counties with CAPP assessment ratios above 11% until the 2014 -15 school year .

This means that for 22 years neither the taxpayers nor the children in these school districts were treated fairly. The school districts seeking relief from the Oklahoma Supreme Court submit that the diversion of taxpayer funds from each of these school districts is significant in amount and in impact.

There are 48 counties that have assessment ratios on CAPP property above 11%. The school districts in these counties serve over 417,000 students

In the 2013-14 school year alone, we believe that over $ 15 million dollars of local revenue that should have stayed in local school districts was distributed to other school districts throughout Oklahoma.

That loss of revenue for the 2013 -14 school year ranges from $ 6.7 million dollars for Oklahoma County school districts to $4,920 for school districts in Cotton County.

Over the past 22 years I estimate th at the Ponca City Public Schools has lost over $13 million dollars in revenue. Oklahoma City Public Schools estimates their loss to be $40 million and Enid Public Schools estimates their loss to be $4.5 million.

We simply believe that what has happened to our children and our taxpayers is unfair and deserves to be remedied .

We have asked today that the Oklahoma State Supreme Court determine that the State Department of Education should correctly calculate state aid for fiscal years 1993-2014 ;

  • collect any over payments that other school districts may have received ;

  • and redistribute those dollars to these 48 school districts .

The diversion of funds violated state law, is unfair to the children and taxpayers in these local school districts and deserves to be remedied.


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