A grassroots advocacy group’s decision to abandon efforts to put a tax repeal proposition on the ballot was a relief for Ada City Schools’ teachers and administrators, Superintendent Mike Anderson said Thursday.
The Oklahoma State School Boards Association and the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration notified Anderson earlier this week that Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! had decided it would not move forward with a new petition, Anderson said in a written statement.
““We had a meeting scheduled with our district directors later that afternoon, so we were able to inform them almost immediately,” he said. “We are not always able to see our teachers over the summer months, but emails were sent to them as well. Those that I have spoken to were elated with the news that funding would be in place to support not only the teachers and support staff raise, but would also provide for a textbook allocation for the first time in three years.”
Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite’s decision was the latest twist in a legal drama that began in mid-March, when the group announced that it would seek a public vote on whether to repeal House Bill 1010xx. That measure contained a mix of tax increases and other initiatives designed to generate more revenue for state coffers.
The state planned to use the money to boost teachers’ salaries, provide raises for school support staff and state workers, and provide additional funding for state services.
Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite, which opposed the tax package, filed a referendum petition with the Oklahoma secretary of state in early May. The group also began collecting voters’ signatures on the petition, in hopes of collecting at least 41,000 valid signatures by July 18.
If the group had succeeded, voters would have decided the fate of HB 1010xx in November.
But the group suffered a major setback last month when the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the referendum petition as fatally flawed.
The court noted that Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! could fix the problems with the original petition, refile it and start collecting new signatures. But the July 18 deadline remained in place.
After discussing the situation, Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! decided it did not have enough time to circulate a new petition, the group said in a written statement Thursday.
“To try to run a veto referendum with a little more than two weeks to meet the deadline would be a waste of valuable resources and manpower,” the group said.
The group also said it was not trying to take teachers’ pay raises away from them, but it wanted taxpayers to have the final say on whether the tax increases included in HB 1010xx would stand.
“Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite! was never about taking away teacher raises but instead about the unnecessary and burdensome taxes in HB 1010xx,” the group said. “Unfortunately, the taxes raised in HB 1010xx will affect a specific demographic of individuals that can least afford it.”
The legal fight over the future of HB 1010xx created uncertainty for school districts as they started working on their budgets for the coming school year.
But Ada Superintendent Mike Anderson said Thursday that recent events made it easier to plan for next year.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling and the decision made by Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite not to pursue their efforts has created a higher level of optimism and hope for the future of public education,” he said. “I know our teachers are anxious to move forward.”