Friday, February 20, 2015

Does the Oklahoma constitution require that funding go to districts?

The state's largest newspaper did an excellent job on Sunday debunking some common myths about education savings accounts. Still, other myths persist. For example, some ESA opponents make the claim that Article 13, section 1(a) of the state constitution requires that education funding go to districts, not to students. Thus, a bill like SB 609 by state Sen. Clark Jolley (R-Edmond) is unconstitutional.
In truth, that argument is based on a misreading of the provision, according to Andrew C. Spiropoulos, the Robert S. Kerr, Sr. Professor of Constitutional Law at the Oklahoma City University School of Law. Spiropoulos explains:

This provision requires the legislature to provide a specified minimum level of funding for public schools but does not require that all education funding go through districts. In addition, both the text of the provision itself and the Supreme Court's repeated rulings regarding education funding make clear that the legislature has the discretion to decide how and (as long as it is above the bare minimum specified) at what level to fund education. In short, there is nothing in this provision that even poses a question about the constitutionality of SB 609.

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