High profile opposition and negative ads take toll on 744 support

on Oct 11, 10 • by • with 3 Comments

The latest SoonerPoll reveals most Oklahomans now oppose a ballot initiative which had wide support when it was last polled in July.  State Question 744, which would require the Oklahoma State Legislature to fund public education to at least the per-pupil average of neighboring states, was supported by 65 percent of...
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The latest SoonerPoll reveals most Oklahomans now oppose a ballot initiative which had wide support when it was last polled in July.  State Question 744, which would require the Oklahoma State Legislature to fund public education to at least the per-pupil average of neighboring states, was supported by 65 percent of Oklahomans in July, a number which has fallen to just 27.6 percent while 58 percent opposed when polling concluded Friday.

In early stages of the election cycle SQ 744 received wide bipartisan support,  with 69.3 percent of Democrats and 59.7 percent of Republicans in favor of the measure in July.

The measure has since been scrutinized by high profile Republican and Democratic leaders alike, who argue that there are no guarantees that money will be spent in the classroom and no oversight or accountability on how the money will be spent.

The current Governor Brad Henry and both 2010 Gubernatorial Candidates have all taken a strong stance against SQ 744.    Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Mary Fallin told the Daily Oklahoman that “if State Question 744 passes it will be devastating for Oklahoma.”

Complete Results and Analysis

Although Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Jari Askins has made education one of the premier issues on the campaign trail, she has come out against the education measure.   Speaking at Oklahoma City University as part of the Oklahoma Academy Forums, Askins said “If our friends in education could have had a crystal ball at the time that they were circulating the petitions and getting signatures for this hope initiative, they would have picked a better economic time.”

Askins is not the only Oklahoman concerned with where the money for SQ 744 will come from.  The One Oklahoma Coalition, a statewide association of individuals and organizations working defeat SQ 744, has been run a series of ads in which the issue of how to pay for the measure takes center stage.

Poll results indicate that the funding concerns raised by high profile party leaders and groups like One Oklahoma Coalition have taken their toll on SQ 744 support.  Both Republicans and Democrats favored the measure in July, but the most recent poll indicates that only 20.2 percent of Republicans and 32.9 percent of Democrats are in still in favor of the measure.

The poll also found a 43.8 percent drop among liberal supporters to only 31.8 percent in favor and a 40.9 percent drop among conservative supporters to only 17.7 percent in favor.

Despite the criticism and fall in support, those in favor of SQ 744 still maintain that Oklahoma can afford 744 if wasteful special interest spending is addressed and eradicated.

Walton Robinson, communications director of the Yes on 744 Campaign, said that the legislature gave away over $2 billion last year in special interest tax breaks for risky investments that could have been invested in education.  “We anticipated that anti-public education politicians and special interest groups would use deceptive scare tactics to mislead voters,” Robinson said. “When they hear our message about helping Oklahoma’s kids and schools they will be able to make an informed decision about SQ744.”

Howard Hall, a respondent from Shawnee, said that he opposes SQ 744 because we cannot afford it.  “We would probably have to cut a lot more jobs if it passes and there is no guarantee that it will help the kids it only promotes the Unions.

“I just don’t think it will do what they think it will do and I don’t think we have the money for it,” poll respondent Lorene Webster of Tulsa said.  Ms. Webster went on to mention that she feels there is a tremendous amount of wasted money in the public school system.

As support for SQ 744 has plummeted, support for State Question 754, which was introduced to counteract 744, has increased from 22 percent in favor in July to 43.2 percent in favor when polling wrapped up Friday.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s Public Opinion Pollster, commissioned and conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 352 likely voters from Oct. 3 – Oct. 7, 2010. The study has a margin of error of ± 5.2 percent.

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3 Responses to High profile opposition and negative ads take toll on 744 support

  1. Joseph Schmidt says:

    Good to see. I agree with Robinson. We’ll definitely be making a “more informed” decision on 744. Unfortunately for him and proponents of the measure, that has led to people educating themselves on what 744 really is and more importantly, what it really is not at all.

    I’m all for cutting wasteful spending. 744 will NOT accomplish this, especially with so little thought behind it (i.e. throwing money at the problem, working along the way). It is better to focus on education itself, using our resources properly, without some ill-conceived measure (with the best intentions) distracting from the real purpose and accountability.

    I’m voting No. So are many teachers, staff and those keeping an eye on what’s what in the education and political system. I look forward to a new slate, but 744 is not the way.

    • Edward Appleby says:

      The price tag for state question 744 is 1.7 billion. Every year 6 billion worth of tax credits are given out to Oklahoma companies. Tax Credits are not usually a bad idea, as they often give businesses incentive to stay in the state and employ our citizens and ad to tax revenue. However, 2 billion of that 6 billion is often suspect, i.e. gimmick airlines and spaceports that go under without a single flight.

      If the state were forced to fund education to a higher level then maybe some of the special interest tax breaks that don’t help Oklahomans could be redirected.

      There are many changes that need to be made to the education system, and many of them can be made in the search for funding for state question 744. The last thing I want to do is cut jobs, but if the money being spent in education bureaucracy like paying for the overabundance of superintendents and school district staffs is taking away from the kids’ education then we need reforms.

      The money is there we just need to set our priorities straight. When this measure was polled in July it had overwhelming support, but now, since the onslaught of ‘No on 744′ ads, it is overwhelmingly opposed. Consider for just a moment, why ‘No on 744′ has such a big budget. Why do wealthy people and corporations have a vested interest in seeing 744 fail?

      The answer is simple, they have their own ideas about the future of school reform. When the average Oklahoman looks at the education system they see a vital, even if broken, addition to society that needs to be fixed. When the ‘No on 744′ types look at the education system they see dollar signs and an untapped market.

      The ‘No on 744′ types do not want to see 744 pass because they know more money would help the current system. They want the current system to fail because it will make the general population more accepting to the kind of reform they are chomping at the bit to implement. Their reform is privatization. We have seen it already with a move toward charter schools and voucher systems, the first step in the privatization process.

      I have heard the argument time and again ‘schools should be run like a business’ and ‘we need to give parents who want their kids to succeed a choice.’ All this really means is that they want to create a system where you get the education you can afford. This system is not based on equality, it is absolutely unequal and works under the assumption that any group of kindergartners can be divided into two categories; those that want to make something of their life and those that don’t. Ask any group of Kindergartners if they want to succeed in life and I guarantee you none will say they don’t.

      This system lines corporate pockets and destines some kids to be successful and others to be prisoners or welfare cases, all based upon the social status of the child’s parents. Kids with poor parents or parents who don’t care are punished with the worst schools because they cannot afford better while kids with wealthy parents who take an interest in them are rewarded with the best schools and education.

      If you want a system like that then do as the charter school, corporatist backed, ‘No on 744’ campaign tells you to. If you are interested in giving all children an opportunity to succeed despite the kind of home they were born into vote yes on 744. 744 will not fix every problem in education but it is a step in the right direction as a firm stance against the special interests that control our government, and yes we can afford it.

  2. No On SQ 744 says:

    “744 will not fix every problem in education but it is a step in the right direction as a firm stance against the special interests that control our government . . . .”

    Who knew that the NEA and the OEA (teachers’ unions) weren’t “special interests?”

    The best fixes for Oklahoma education are:
    1. Cut administrative overhead through targeted administrative consolidation;
    2. Much more competition (vouchers, increased freedom of transfer, charter schools);
    3. Firing the lowest-performing 10-15% of teachers (cut the dead weight);
    4. Merit pay instead of seniority pay;
    5. Higher pay for advanced degrees and National Board Certification;
    6. Return of corporal punishment (“The Board of Education to the Seat of Understanding”);
    7. School uniforms and a professional dress code for teachers.

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