Stanislawski

State Sen. Gary Stanislawski is pictured in Broken Arrow in 2019. MATT BARNARD/Tulsa World file

A proposal to redirect medical marijuana tax money strikes us as a bit of a tempest in a teapot, but it also strikes us as an idea Tulsans should not support.

Sen. Gary Stanislawski’s Senate Bill 1758 would require that 75% of the taxes from medical marijuana sales go to the public school equalization fund, which helps fund districts with low property tax revenue. Most of those schools are in rural parts of the state.

State Question 788 — approved by nearly 57% of the voters in 2018 — designated the money for the state general fund, saying that it was to be spent exclusively for public schools.

Here’s a thought experiment: How many people who voted for SQ 788 wouldn’t have done so if it had designated the money for the public school equalization fund instead of public school funding through the general fund? We honestly think the impact on the election would have been negligible.

But for some of those voters it would have been a less enthusiastic yes vote. Instead of benefiting all the state’s school children, it would have only benefitted a portion of the school children.

Are those children somehow more deserving? They are in property-poor districts and, arguably, those are schools that need a lot of help. But all of that must be balanced with the reality that the state’s school aid formula already seeks to equalize funding in favor of property-poor districts. The formula also undervalues the cost of urban education. Those imbalances would be aggravated by SB 1758.

Here’s another thought experiment: What if Stanislawski’s bill provided for the money to go to the general fund and then to the equalization fund? Then it would be wholly within the language of SQ 788, which is why we say it’s somewhat of a tempest in a teapot. It’s also worth noting that we’re talking about a little under $768,000 a year. That’s a lot of money, but it’s only 0.025% of annual state school appropriations.

Stanislawski’s bill doesn’t strike us as an outrageous breach of faith with the SQ 788 voters, and in relative terms it doesn’t involve a great deal of funding, but it does make the rural skew of state school funding worse, and we can’t see supporting it.


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