Editor’s note: State House District 52 Rep. Charles Ortega (R-Altus) was provided an opportunity to respond.
At a recent meeting of the Altus Board of Education I, along with fellow board members, voted to allow the Altus Public Schools to join in a lawsuit with other boards of education against the Oklahoma Tax Commission. This suit is an attempt to recapture the $187,545.00 lost to the Altus district in the first nine months of the fiscal year due to passage of House Bill 2244. Other schools in House District 52 (Eldorado, Olustee, Hollis, Snyder) collectively lost $93,347.00, and the bleeding will continue through June 30, just to begin again.
This awkwardly written bill passed by the Oklahoma House in 2015 was originally intended to cap funds generated from motor vehicle taxes that are dedicated to our public schools. This intent, in and of itself, was a bad idea and made no sense. Why, as the legislature supposedly searches for new monies for our schools, would anyone in his right mind vote to cap a growing revenue stream specifically dedicated to public schools especially when Oklahoma schools are already reeling under massive cuts in state aid?
A little noticed change to the bill was the removal of the “hold harmless” language which would have protected schools from ever receiving less monies than in the previous year. As is always the case, when one tinkers with the school funding formula in any way, one creates winners and losers. For instance, those schools in Speaker Hickman’s district gained monies that House District 52 lost. A careful reading of the bill would have made this pernicious change obvious. Does it not make one wonder if those who voted for passage even read the bill, or having read it, failed to understand what they had read? Representative Ortega voted in favor of this legislation.
John N. Thomas