Home > 744, education, Oklahoma, politics > 744 is a bad idea part 3 – unintended consequences

744 is a bad idea part 3 – unintended consequences

October 18, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Read Part 1 – my thoughts on the general concept of 744

Read Part 2 – thoughts on the problems with paying for 744

Let me start by saying I’m not a doom and gloom kind of person. Scare tactics aren’t my thing. I don’t think the state is going to release 8500 inmates (although there may be a number of those that probably should be released) or do away with Medicare (we can’t can we?). That being said, when I look down there road, there are a couple of issues that seem almost inevitable to me. It’s easy to say we need to pass 744 “for the kids”, but with the good intentions, we have to at least think seriously about the possibility of unintended consequences.

1. Development of a hostile business environment. Proponents of 744 claim that there are 2 billion dollars in wasteful spending and tax breaks available to be tapped to pay for the required spending increases. But one man’s wasteful tax break is another man’s (or company’s) incentive to locate their business in OK. If a company is paying a 20% tax rate due to incentives and breaks what is their response going to be when suddenly they are being told they have to pay 30%? Are companies going to relocate to or stay in OK if they are penalized to do so? The pro-744 camp claims that our better educated workforce and superior education system will draw new high-paying jobs to the state, but  will they? Oklahoma is already falling in the Forbes rankings of business-friendly environments. It’s hard to imagine that going after business to foot the bill for 744 is going to reverse that trend.

2. Cuts in other critical areas. I don’t think we’re going to find enough money to pay for 744 in cutting legislative salaries and perks or going after wasteful spending. Especially as the going rate keeps going up (and stays up no matter what happens in the states around us). It may be there, but our legislature isn’t going to go after it.  I think we are moving toward a situation where legislators are going to be forced to attack the budgets of other state agencies to pay for the mandated increases in common education spending. In part 2 of this conversation, I pointed out that funding to higher education, health, and other services is already on the decline. If 744 passes, I think they are going to fall farther. They’ll have to. Is it going to help the state if our better educated high school grads can’t afford to go to OU or OSU? We already have some of the worst roads and bridges in the country, what happens when infrastructure spending deceases? We can’t count on a stimulus package every year. The further out of whack the budget gets skewed toward mandated spending for common education, the more issues related to underfunding we are going to see.

3. It hurts education instead of helping. Could the passage of this amendment ultimately be bad for education in OK? Will corporations be less involved in partnering to help education if they are already being hit up to pay for education through increased taxation? Could increased costs in higher ed cause a brain drain out of the state as students look elsewhere to further their education? Without any direction as to how the new funds are spent, is there any guarantee that they will go to programs that actually help? If districts have to decide between increasing technology, providing training for teachers, or raising salaries – which is going to be chosen? I want teachers to be paid what they’re worth (and that should be a lot), but is it in the best interest of kids to increase the salaries of teachers and administrators who aren’t getting the job done?

If 744 passes, I hope I am completely wrong on every count. And if I am, I’ll be the first to admit it. But I just can’t see it. Education is the key to so many things that we want to accomplish as a state, but education is affected by a ton of factors beyond the financial. The passage of 744 is going to hurt extraneous factors and their impact on education more than the additional funds are going to help.

Up next: Epilogue – What could we do instead?

Categories: 744, education, Oklahoma, politics
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  1. October 21, 2010 at 3:22 pm

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