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Shadid proposes tax increase to fund teacher stipends

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OKC Councilman Ed Shadid.
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OKLAHOMA CITY- Oklahoma’s number one asset for a thriving future doesn’t lie in crude oil nor does it lie in infrastructure – it lies in our youth, local leaders said yesterday evening at the Save OKC School Initiative Petition Launch meeting held at the Tower Hotel. 

“Here we are trying to pass a sales tax for the city’s infrastructure, but we need to focus on our youth,” said Councilman Dr. Ed Shadid about a special election for Better Streets, Safer City scheduled September 12, 2017.

If passed, the proposed one percent sales tax will go to sidewalks, trails, street resurfacing, streetscapes, and bicycle infrastructure. Shadid noted that although good infrastructure is important for a growing and thriving metropolitan area, but encouraged voters to reject the proposed tax.

“I would encourage you not to vote for the (Better Street, Safer City) sales tax and invest in our educational system instead," Shadid said. “What about the youth? People are aware that we have a problem. We can’t wait on the state government to fix this.”

The initiative calls for a temporary four-year income tax that will allow an annual stipend to offset pay for teachers, school nurses and support staff. These stipends will only be paid to non-administrative personnel. Seventy percent of the tax will remain in the OKC School District. The remaining 30 percent will go to surrounding school districts.

“We have to do something,” said Reverend Jesse Jackson Jr. of the East Sixth Street Christian Church in Oklahoma City.  Jackson cited billboards along major interstates offering teacher’s starting pay at $51,000. “OKC has an opportunity to do something now. It is shameful for Oklahoma to be in this situation."

“We can’t compete,” Jackson stated. “We need qualified teachers, bus drivers, janitors and maintenance personnel to operate our schools. I challenge anyone to sit on a bus for a week; sit in a classroom for a week. They don’t have an easy job.”

A minimum of 12,000 signatures is needed within 90 days to get the measure on the ballot.  With enough signatures, the initiative would be moved to the ballot for a vote on the April 3, 2018 election date.

“This is not about taxes, this is about children,” exclaimed Christine Byrd, Political Outreach Director for the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

Budget cuts to public education since 2008 have resulted in students who may not be able to earn livable wages in the future because of a lack of resources.

“We have students that were affected by these cuts when they were first graders,”  Gene Perry, Policy Director of Oklahoma Policy Institute, said about the 28 percent reduction in state funding for education. “They are now high school freshman. We have sacrificed a generation with these budget cuts.”

Byrd agreed. “If we don’t do this,” she said about the proposed tax. “We are going to fill the prisons.”

David Gray, president of the Oklahoma Federation of Classified Employees, AFT Local 4574, stated the stipend would lower classroom size with more teachers remaining in-state.

Oklahoma City schools bus driver Joanetta Parker agreed. “I can’t live on this wage. I’m barely making it,” she said. “I’m frustrated. If nothing changes, I will have to leave the school system and find another job.”

Former Governor David Walter said he is encouraged that Oklahoma City residents will support the tax.

To sign the petition, donate to the initiative, or to learn more, visit their website or Facebook page.

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Carita Jordan Howard

Carita is an award winning journalist that has lived in Oklahoma for the last five years...

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