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Language in Oklahoma Constitution has helped impede end runs

by The Oklahoman Editorial Board Published: February 12, 2013

In 2006, the Oklahoma Education Association sued the state, claiming school funding was inadequate. The teachers' union sought a court-mandated increase of $1 billion in annual education funding and $3 billion more for capital improvements. A district court judge tossed the lawsuit, saying lawmakers must determine how much is spent on education.

While many citizens may support increased school funding, they should nonetheless cheer the recent failure of school funding lawsuits in Oklahoma. Citizens today have the ability to make school funding a priority by pressuring their legislators, voting for candidates who advocate increased funding, or even running for office themselves if they feel strongly about the issue.

No one should want judges unilaterally directing state fiscal policy at the behest of special-interest groups. Those who support increased school appropriations would likely object if it meant pedophiles were free to lurk near school playgrounds because education increases forced budget cuts at state prisons. Given that Oklahoma has a balanced budget requirement, no spending decision occurs in a vacuum. Trade-offs are unavoidable.

Too often, education funding lawsuits represent the pursuit of political goals by undemocratic means. Oklahomans should be thankful our state constitution's language has impeded those end runs on democracy and ensured voters maintain the power to make political decisions in the political arena.