LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - University of Oklahoma President David Boren spoke at a town hall meeting at Cameron Monday night about a penny sales tax that would raise more than $600 million a year for education. Supporters of the plan are conducting a petition drive to put the idea to a vote of the people this November. They need 124,000 signatures by mid-May, so they're touring the state to spread the word about why this plan is vital to the state's educational system.
President Boren say that he sees soon-to-be graduated high school students visit his campus all the time. Then he learns from some of the student's counselors that because of the lack of funding for their schools they might not get accepted to college, or might not be able to afford it.
He says it breaks his heart, and that he is fed up.
"Our children are worth a penny," said Boren.
Boren says he has seen a positive reaction from Oklahomans during his tour in support of putting the penny sales tax for education on the ballot.
"I think the people of Oklahoma are ready to say enough is enough," said Boren. "That's not who we are."
Eighty-six percent of the tax will provide teachers a $5,000 raise, and give school districts the flexibility to raise the salary of hard-to-fill jobs. About 13 percent will provide funds for programs to improve reading in the early grades, boost high school graduation rates and expand college and career readiness. About 19 percent will go toward higher education to improve college affordability. A portion will be for career and technology enhancement, and eight percent will be used for the growth of early learning programs for low-income children.
"You know sometimes we think we passed solution for education in the past," said Boren. "Then all of a sudden the money gets spent for other things. This money can't be spent on other things."
Central Middle School math coach Pamela Ramey, who also spoke at the meeting Monday, says getting this proposal on the ballot is about funding but also about respect for Oklahoma teachers.
"Teachers do more than just teach," said Ramey. "We're parents, we're counselors, we're everything. The public doesn't see everything behind the teaching."
"I had great teachers," said Boren. "I bet a lot of people watching us had great teachers in their lives. We want to make sure these great teachers are in the classroom for the next generation too."
It's been about ten days since this petition drive has started, and President Boren says they have more than 50,000 signatures so they are well on their way to get the 124,000 they need by May 16th.
Supporters say they will hold training sessions for volunteers interested in getting signatures for the petition in Lawton in the next couple of days. If you are interested, visit their website at okchildrenourfuture.org.