*Editor's Note: After a long layoff, we are re-launching our blog. We will focus on the progressive ideas and issues Oklahoma could actually do something about. Whether it is current problems we could solve or wrongs we could right, progressive political solution are a possibility right here in Oklahoma!
There has been an immense amount of discussion over the future allocation of funds to public education all across the state from both sides of the aisle. This discourse came to a head with the torrid fight over the proposed transfer of vouchers to be used for public, or more preferably, private schools. Though the measure failed, the chances of this being the last attempt to undermine the right to a public education as guaranteed by the Oklahoma Constitution.
The argument has been presented from the conservative side of the state that vouchers will enhance school choice. The counterargument from the more left and left adjacent side of the state is that these vouchers will not be viable for the majority of Oklahomans as rural charter schools are few in number. Oklahoma’s abdominal education rankings will not be rectified with a handout to private school systems like Epic Charter Schools. The mismanagement of public funds was likened to the now-defunct Enron. The financial crimes committed by Epic show that public dollars cannot be entrusted to the hands of private entities. There is a solution at the state level that should appease both sides. Oklahoma’s Promise for All.
Oklahoma’s Promise is a program that since its inception in 1992 has allowed those who are economically disadvantaged to pull themselves up by their bootstraps with state-level aid if the requirements for the scholarship are met. Some of these include residence in the state of Oklahoma and the student’s parents earning less than $60,000 a year. The state’s brightest minds have been given the opportunity to attain an education that will aide them in their climb to make the American dream a reality. In addition to increasing the depth of the workforce, the lack of crippling student loan debt would be a shot in the arm not only for those directly benefitting from the program but Oklahomans as a whole. As covid-19 has shown, the Oklahoma economy like the national economy is based on consumption. As consumption is driven down by a lack of purchasing power as the result of a veritable flood of student loan debt, the ability to consume tanks the economy. As of April 2022, American borrowers are on the hook for approximately $1.75 trillion. This amount represents more than double the Pentagon budget for the Department of defense for this fiscal year.
In addition, expansion of Oklahoma’s promise to cover all Oklahomans regardless of financial status would also eliminate the predatory practices these modern-day loan sharks partake in. Students entering their freshman year at a post-secondary school are confronted with a dire choice, take on tens to hundreds of thousands of student loan debt, or take out a loan at the age of eighteen. The consequences of this choice are often not realized until later in the journey to gain the economic freedom a degree can provide. These loans, as a result of then Senator Joe Biden’s Bankruptcy Bill are not legally allowed to be discharged even in death. This has been the impetus for some married couples to divorce as a means of avoiding having their extensive debt transferred to their widowed partner. All of this can be avoided by expanding an already successful program to cover the entire state. Capital gains taxes should be the primary means of funding this measure with an alternative revenue stream coming from increasing the top marginal rate on the state’s most solvent taxpayers. The rewards that would be gained from this measure would finally set this state towards becoming a top ten state. It’s time to expand Oklahoma’s Promise.