(Rep. Ed Cannady is the state representative for Dist. 15)
It was great to have Cherokee Chief Bill John Baker speak to the Native American Caucus and share with us the focus that his leadership will take and the announcement of the $1 billion economic impact in eastern Oklahoma.
He also expressed pride in the role that the Cherokee Nation provides in health care needs as seen in the one million health care visits at their medical facilities. I especially appreciated his commitment to promote home building for the tribal members within the 14 counties of the Cherokee Nation.
This will have a major impact for numerous citizens in District 15 as well as assisting the state on its providing these services. It was reassuring to hear him speak of the importance of a strong family unit for growth in our area and state.
I would like to continue with Governor Fallin’s State of the State message by analyzing her thoughts on cutting and then doing away with our state income tax. A good place to start would be to quote Tulsa World writer Wayne Greene’s article when he stated the following about Oklahoma’s tax system. “….a poor man can feel like a millionaire because they’re paying taxes at the same rate.”
We see this being proposed to phase out the state’s requirement of personal income tax. While this is being sold on the idea that this will promote new businesses in our state, the fact is that these new businesses will not come here until we have an efficient and secure transportation infrastructure, a skilled labor force relative to specific needs, and nearby markets.
These will require public investments made possible by the income tax. Another aspect that will be hit is our retired teachers funding. The Oklahoma Retired Teachers Organization has received funding from the state income tax at a rate of approximately four percent which adds up to over $200 million a year.
This amount has shrunk in the last three years as the percentage of state income tax is minimized. What I am writing now is just the tip of the issue and I will continue writing on this as the session moves along. An example will be an analysis of the $7 billion plus tax giveaways not tied to specific job creation.
The second focus of this entry is on education. Let us first talk about the “Waiver” that Superintendent Barresi requested and received. It allows the state to be exempt form the federal No Child Left Behind mandates. The problem we find is that it places our public schools under the direct control of the State Superintendent who has let it be known that she sees our local control of education to be the problem with schools that have failed to make “adequate yearly progress” or AYP.
An example of this is her request in the Waiver to hire private vendors to take over school funds, management, curriculum, and/or instruction. The local board would have no say. These will be referred to as EMOs or Educational Management Organizations and there is no prevention language that excludes campaign contributors from serving in this capacity. An interesting twist of logic is found in the waiver request in since the bottom third of students counts against the school three times while the advanced students count for the school only once.
There are a couple of education bills that I would like to give you a heads up on that were heard in committee this week.
First, I was proud of the bipartisan effort to defeat a bill that should have never been heard. HB 3089 by Rep. Nelson, R. Oklahoma City, called for the extension of the school day by thirty (30) minutes or it should not be less than six and a half hours rather than six.
The odd part of this is that the author did not change the total number of hours required per year which is 1,080. Without changing this it was a totally redundant bill and a waste of tax payers money having it heard. It was defeated by a vote of 11 to 4.
Another education bill that causes me heartburn is HB 3112 which discontinues paying for any remediation courses for students receiving financial assistance through the Promise or OHLAP program. A high school student has to qualify for this assistance by maintaining a certain grade point and pass specified college preparatory courses in high school.
They will be assigned to a 0 level or non-credit course based on their subject scores on the ACT. The sad part of this is that our schools have been measured based on students’ success on PASS objective criteria that do not relate to the ACT and now we are punishing those who have complied with our schools requirements only to find that our colleges and universities are using a different measurement. This bill will come to the floor and I will work to defeat it.
If you would like to have my weekly Notes sent to by email each week, please contact me at the address below. If you wish to contact me please utilize any of the following: PO Box 98, Porum, OK 74455, by email at [email protected] , home phone: 918 484 5701, cell: 918 448 5702 or Legislative Assistant, Gene Fowler, at 1 800 522 8502 or 405 557 7375 and fax 405 962 7685 at the Capitol. Web Site http://www.edcannaday.com