OKC Councilman Ed Shadid delivered three suitcases to City Hall downtown Thursday containing what he claimed were 16,000 petition signatures for a city income tax to support local public schools.
Only 12,000 are needed to put measure on the next ballot.
The petition was circulated by a local organization called Save OKC Schools.
It calls for a vote to impose a four-year, ¼ of 1 percent income tax on residents to fund schools within City of Oklahoma City limits.
Shadid said a family that makes $30,000 or less per year would not have to pay the tax at all.
If voters approve, distribution of money will be proportional using the same method used by Maps for Kids. Each school district would receive proportional funds according to how many of its students were within Oklahoma City limits.
Because Oklahoma City Schools takes up a large portion of Oklahoma City limits, they would receive about 80 to 90 percent of the funds.
The petition specifically limits the money being spent on teacher and support staff raises and does not include pay for administrators or facilities.
Frances Kersey, city clerk, told Free Press that the petition needs 11,991 verified signatures to be placed on a future ballot. They will stop the process once that many are verified.
She said they have only eight business days to complete the verification process.
“Let the people speak about how much Oklahoma City residents are willing to support our schools,” Shadid said in a news conference in city hall after petitions were turned in.
He argues that the people of Oklahoma City should be given the opportunity to speak through their vote on whether to try and achieve a good school system that supports the growth OKC leaders continue to promote.
“Our Legislature has failed to fund public schools and is still failing to do so. We cannot have our path tied to the Legislature,” said Shadid.
“It’s time for the people of Oklahoma City to be given an opportunity to fund our schools.”
The public delivery of far more petitions than needed was the third attention-getting event Shadid and leaders of Save OKC Schools has staged.
In June, Free Press covered a public announcement on the steps of City Hall where several leaders gave speeches in support of Oklahoma City residents taking on the challenge of funding public schools in the city.
“Polling indicates widespread support across a wide array of demographics to support raising additional revenue to stop the financial bleeding of Oklahoma City Public Schools,” said Shadid at that news conference.
Then, in August, Save OKC Schools booked a large room at the Tower Hotel where an active crowd heard a panel discuss the needs of the district and possibilities added funding would generate for public schools.
The panel took questions from attendees while Save OKC Schools organizers signed people up for training on how to collect signatures.
Rev. Jesse Jackson, one of the panelists and pastor of East Sixth Street Christian Church, delivered a warning:
“OKC has an opportunity to do something great now. This is an idea worth fighting for. This is not a game.”
Thursday, as Shadid watched city staff work their way through the piles of signed petitions for the first time he talked to Free Press about the process.
“Volunteers said it really wasn’t hard to get people to sign the petition. People know that education is important.”
He said getting 4,000 more petitions than needed was not that much of a challenge because of strong support for the idea.