OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Supreme Court says an initiative petition that would overturn a package of tax hikes for funding teacher pay raises and public schools is invalid.
Oklahoma's highest court handed down the ruling Friday and ordered that the initiative petition not appear on an election ballot.
An anti-tax group led by former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn had launched a referendum petition seeking a vote to repeal tax hikes on cigarettes, fuel and energy production approved by the Legislature earlier this year. Money from the taxes would fund an average $6,100 teacher pay increase.
But the court says the wording of the petition is misleading and those who sign it don't know what they would vote on.
The court says the group has until July 18 to circulate a new petition. Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister released the following statement on the decision:
"The bipartisan passage of House Bill 1010xx was a significant step forward for all Oklahomans. I commend the Oklahoma Supreme Court for rejecting a repeal effort of this landmark legislation. At long last, we can reward our dedicated, hardworking public school teachers with the competitive pay they deserve. On the heels of a school year in which 1 in 7 students was taught by an untrained teacher, we can, and we must, now begin stemming the tide of Oklahoma’s crippling teacher shortage. Today’s decision clears the way for funding regionally competitive teacher pay, ushering in a new era of stability that is not only a win for public education, but for our kids and the future of our state.”