OKLAHOMA CITY — Calling the potential ramifications of State Question 744 devastating for the state, Gov. Brad Henry announced Tuesday he is joining the campaign against the education proposal.
“I can tell you from experience that if State Question 744 passes, it will absolutely devastate the budget of all other critical areas of the state budget,” Henry said while announcing he will serve as statewide chairman for the One Oklahoma Coalition in their push to oppose the ballot measure. “And we can simply not allow that to happen.”
Although Henry has been vocal in the past about his opposition to the plan that would require the state to spend annually no less than the average amount spent on each student by surrounding states, his latest remarks join a continuing chorus from other politicians who have criticized the proposal. Those officials, who are represented on both sides of the aisle, include both gubernatorial candidates Republican Mary Fallin and Democrat Jari Askins, dozens of legislators and other appointed or elected members serving in office.
Walton Robinson, communications director of the Yes on 744 campaign, acknowledged the anemic political support for the pro-744 movement. But he said this is not indicative of the lack of backing among the voters.
He called Henry’s news conference Tuesday “political theater” and not representative of the grass-roots movement that he argued his campaign is leading.
“People recognize it is the politicians who have failed us and led us to being 49th in the country and last in the region,” Robinson said, referring to Oklahoma’s ranking in per-pupil education funding. “They talk a good game, but it is really just lip service that does no good for the people.”
Following Henry’s announcement, Tim Gilpin, who was appointed to the State Board of Education by the governor, also echoed the view that most public officials are merely trying to protect the status quo instead of looking for the type of reform that voters want.