OKLAHOMA CITY — More than half of the respondents to a poll released Wednesday believe that education funding should be increased, even if it means raising taxes.
The poll was commissioned by the Oklahoma Education Association and was conducted by Harstad Strategic Research Inc., based in Colorado.
The results are based on 502 random telephone interviews among likely voters in the November 2018 Oklahoma elections. It was conducted Dec. 7-12.
Some 56 percent said they would support increasing funding even if it means a tax hike.
Applying the poll results to the larger population, 85 percent of Oklahomans think teacher pay in the state falls a little short, somewhat short or far short.
Voters were asked about an initiative petition that seeks to raise the gross production tax to 7 percent from 2 percent on new wells to fund a teacher pay raise.
The proposal, State Question 795, drew a legal challenge from the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association on Wednesday.
“The oil and natural gas industry is the largest tax payer in Oklahoma,” said Tim Wigley, OIPA president. “No one comes close. That makes you the largest supporter of public education and teachers.”
“It is ludicrous to imply that the industry does not support education,” he said. “It is equally ludicrous to expect one industry to carry that burden.”
Supporters of State Question 795 say it would fund a $4,000-a-year teacher pay raise and provide additional money for early childhood education programs.
Survey interviewers indicated that the raise would be $5,000 because the poll was created before a raise amount had been settled upon, said Doug Folks, an OEA spokesman.
Some 32 percent of respondents said they would definitely vote yes, while 37 percent said probably and 2 percent were leaning toward a yes vote.
Some 92 percent of respondents rated the Oklahoma Legislature fair to poor on having the right approach to funding public schools. Some 87 percent of respondents rated Gov. Mary Fallin as fair to poor in her approach to funding public schools.
“Voters understand this Legislature has failed miserably in its duty to provide the necessary investments in education to make Oklahoma the state it should be,” said Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest.
“What is clear to me is voters understand who is responsible for the education funding crisis and subsequent teacher shortage, and they want better for Oklahoma school children.”