There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow

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Guthrie and all of Logan County are in the midst of growth from a population and residential building boom.  Representative Jason Murphey recently opined an article where he discussed the growth of revenue that school districts will see from collection of ad valorem taxes.  This revenue growth is spurred by residential growth through new construction which is ongoing across Logan County. 

Guthrie Superintendent Mike Simpson

Guthrie Superintendent Mike Simpson

According to Rep. Murphey’s article, “Deer Creek, Guthrie and Edmond school districts are set to receive combined new growth revenues of over a million dollars from Logan County growth alone.”  To read the statement, I’m sure many of the patrons of the Guthrie school district assume we will receive enough funds to build fancy new buildings and purchase state of the art technology for our classrooms with the huge infusion of cash.  Currently, we purchase the computers used in our classrooms from Edmond Public Schools when they have deemed them obsolete.  What the article fails to mention is that through the current funding formula employed by Oklahoma, all school districts receive the same amount of funding per student regardless of where the funds come from.  In other words, we will receive this money from your property taxes but additional funding we receive from the state is reduced by the same amount.  There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow Rep. Murphey writes about.

Schools in this state are currently funded at a level per student that is lower than they were in 2008.  It is well documented that Oklahoma has a long-standing history of funding education well below most of the United States. Consequently, many Oklahoma communities (either school districts or municipalities), have chosen through the years to tax themselves for large capital improvements for schools, public infrastructure needs or various other quality of life necessities.  I propose the definition of “necessity” is specific to a community based on the values of its people.  That process is often through bond issues where the needs are specific and listed on the ballot so the voters may decide their value.  In Oklahoma, school bond elections are some of the most restrictive in the U.S.   A 60% super-majority of the voters within a school district is required of an issue in order to pass.  Rep. Murphey states, “when the debt is issued, the district is suddenly empowered with a rapid cash flow of other peoples’ money.”  I assume the other people he is referring to are the voters who chose to vote yes on the bond issue and made the conscious decision to support education within the community by branding it a necessity.  My thoughts are, “if education isn’t a necessity in your community, then why not.”

The Murphey article also mentions, “this has led to extremely questionable spending practices.”  State law requires any bond issue to complete the project proposed when the voters cast their ballots or that money must be returned to the citizens.  He promises “more on that later” and I can only assume he is planning to offer evidence of such from a school district other than Guthrie.  School finance is a complex issue that is nearly impossible to simplify within an article of this size so that it may be easily understood.  The quotes prove it is easier to cast doubt through bits and pieces of information than to have a rich understanding of the truth.

As for me, I’m hoping in the near future, the patrons of Guthrie Public Schools will not be fazed by the “red herrings” of a few and firmly make the statement that education in this community is a necessity.  For the immediate future of GPS, despite the good news Representative Murphey brought us, we will continue to patch our outdated buildings and use outdated computers that have been purchased from Edmond Public Schools.

***Guthrie News Page has added the link to Jason Murphey’s column.


7 Comments on "There is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow"

  1. We need to make our schools a priority. By doing so we will continue to grow. We need to pass some bond issues to make this happen.

  2. Sharon Cochrane | July 23, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Reply

    I agree, Tami Boxley!

  3. I agree that education has got to become a priority in this district, but I feel it is the job of the district to present practical solutions (bonds) & sell them to the community. Their have several bonds that did not pass, likely because it was a huge number for the voters to swallow during a recession. Look at Edmond, they have successfully passed 55 consecutive bonds for continued improvement. They didn’t wait until the problems added up.

  4. Karen McGovern | July 24, 2013 at 11:22 am | Reply

    It has been my experience in the time I have lived in Guthrie that when asked for the people to vote for a bond issue that will benefit the schools very few voters turn out. It seems strange to me that the conditions the schools are in is tolerated by the parents. Our children are grown, but we always vote for the school bond issues and I’m always surprised that we are two of the few.

  5. Agree Staci, the past bonds that have been proposed were far more than what our district needed considering the exorbitant tax increases, start with being practical. I would assume that the truth lies somewhere between what Rep Murphy wrote and the what Mike wrote in this classless rebuttal.

  6. Rep. Murphy offered a solution by changing the state law that would allow for improvements to our schools without the extra cost incurred by bonds. I’m not sure what the problem with that would be.

  7. Sue DuCharme | August 3, 2013 at 8:54 am | Reply

    Children treated like second class citizens behave like second class citizens. My youngest child is 48 years old but that does not mean schools are not important to me. Staci has it right! Mike Simpson is a gift to Guthrie and we need to listen to his advice, not blindly, make it your business to understand where we really stand. Become a registered voter, what are you waiting for? Then, for heavens sake vote. Voting is free…….clean, safe, schools are not, no matter what Rep. Murphy says.

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