Cordon Dekock from the Oklahoma State Chamber and Dr. Joe Sciano from the Oklahoma State School Boards Association faced off twice during Tuesday’s community forum at the Ardmore Convention Center. Their second discussion was on SQ 801 which would change the way school districts are allowed to use their building funds. Currently, building funds are limited to use on construction, remodeling, landscaping and maintenance. If passed, SQ 801 would allow local districts to use these funds for other school district needs such as teacher pay, textbooks or supplies.
Dekock and the Oklahoma State Chamber support the initiative, Sciano and the Oklahoma School Boards Association maintain a neutral position.
Dekock said the question would remove an “artificial restriction” put into place in 1955. He said the restriction created two separate pools of money that cannot cross over. He pointed out that some districts could put these funds to better use in other areas.
“This just provides a choice for local school boards to use the money how they see fit,” Dekock said. He went on to say that if local schools wanted to continue with the current system of funding, they could. Other schools can choose to be more flexible with their funds.
Dekock said that it would be the locally elected school board members who ultimately make the choice on how the funds would be spent.
“All this is going to do is create a local choice with how they spend their dollars,” Dekock said.
Sciano pointed out that while the Oklahoma State School Boards Association has a neutral position on SQ 801, they are not enthusiastically supporting it.
“This is kind of the flex without the flex,” Sciano said. This, he said, is due to the question not bringing in any additional money. “What we really need are opportunities for local school districts to create more revenue for flexibility.”
Sciano also said that the building fund is very much needed to maintain facilities because Oklahoma is one of the few states in the country that does not have a state funded formula to offset maintenance control and maintenance needs. This makes the building fund important for communities that have challenges passing bond issues.
“This does create the opportunity for more affluent schools to begin hand picking teachers from other districts that might be challenged.” Sciano said. Because of this he said he could see the flexibility offered by SQ 801 leading to potential inequity.