Budget Savings Plan Will Hurt Oklahoma Families the Most

Information from the Oklahoma State Department of Education said that House Bill 2957 was passed yesterday. The bill eliminates the requirement that ties teacher evaluations to student test scores. I don’t know how to respond to this. It’s so rare that anything sensible comes out of the Oklahoma State Legislature.

It will save school districts money at a time when they desperately need it, and at the same time, will eliminate a ridiculous, meaningless requirement. This article outlines some of the reasons that using test scores to evaluate individual teachers is a bad idea.

But just because legislators eliminated one bad idea doesn’t mean they’re on target to do anything meaningful to plug the $1.3 billion budget shortfall. They have a couple of weeks to come up with something. Surely they’re working hard at filling that hole. Sand Springs school administrator and education blogger (A View From the Edge), Rob Miller, went over to the State Capitol to check out the heavy lifting that our representatives are doing as they try to save the state from falling into that hole. You would expect that there would be a sense of urgency from policy makers, but evidently, they haven’t gotten the word. Here’s Rob’s blog describing, as he puts it, “another busy day under the dome of the Oklahoma Capitol.”

While our legislators act like fifth graders on a field trip, Oklahoma families are facing real consequences of their lack of leadership. The Oklahoma Policy Institute has been promoting a sensible and comprehensive plan to fill the hole, but so far Governor Fallin and the Legislature have done nothing more than kick a few dirt clods into the gaping crevasse. Outlined in simple bullet points that even an Oklahoma Legislator could understand, the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s plan shows that we CAN do something.

The Legislature, however, has some different ideas to save a few million dollars, but at the expense of children and old people. While lawmakers and Governor Fallin are unwilling to suspend the 2016 income tax cut that lowered the tax rate of wealthy individuals, they seem eager to eliminate tax credits that help most Oklahoma families – those of us who really need it. Those credits include the Earned Income Tax Credit, Sales Tax Relief Credit, and Child Tax Credit/Child Care Tax Credit. Read this to find out how these credits help families, and how eliminating them will raise taxes on families with children. “Among two-parent families with two children, everyone making $71,000 or less would see a net tax increase, even after this year’s income tax cut.” (okpolicy.org)

David Blatt with the Oklahoma Policy Institute says:

“The plan being circulated by state legislators would end the Child Tax Credit and significantly reduce the Earned Income Tax Credit and Sales Tax Relief Credit, for a combined cut of about $76 million. These credits provide crucial supports for hard-pressed families that are already struggling to make ends meet.  A couple with two children earning $35,000 a year could pay $180 more per year under this proposal, while elderly couples on fixed incomes could lose most or all of their $80 Sales Tax Relief Credit.  The tax increase on low- and moderate-income families would take effect at the same time as lawmakers are allowing a tax cut for top incomes that costs more than twice as much ($147 million) and provides minimal or no benefits to most families that could now lose these broad-based credits.”

According to the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy, Oklahoma already ranks 39th in the country for child well-being. Let’s not make things worse. There isn’t much time left to keep families from being buried in that big budget hole. Tell policy makers that cutting tax credits to families is not the best option. There are better ways to handle the budget crisis. Go here to find your Senator and Representative and let them know what you think. It’s time for urgency. Governor Fallin’s phone number is 405.521.2342.

Categories: Editor’s Blog