The Pryor Times

March 28, 2013

Breaking Oklahoma’s promise

State Representative
Ben Sherrer

— Breaking Oklahoma’s promise

 

I support Gov. Fallin’s stated intent to increase the number of college graduates in our state. And that's why I continue to support the most successful program in state history for access to higher education is the Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program, also known as Oklahoma’s Promise.

Under the program a student’s in-state tuition is paid for if the student has maintained a 2.5 gpa, refrain from substance abuse, refrain from the commission of crimes/delinquent acts and have school work/school records reviewed by program mentors.

Students between the ages of 13 and 15 qualify for the program if, at the time of application for the program, they live in households with an income below $50,000.  When it’s time to go to college, household income is reviewed and must still remain below $100,000. This second income test provides an incentive for parents to keep working, earning, and improving their economic status while knowing their child/children would remain qualified for the program

But this framework is under attack with the passage of HB 1721 by Rep. Leslie Osborn (R-Mustang), a measure which reduces the second income test to $60,000. Such a move will reduce the number of Oklahoma students going to college. Beyond that, It creates an incentive for underemployment and it even creates a disincentive for marriage among single parents whose combined incomes approach the income limits on the later income test.

It is estimated the measure might affect upwards of 500 students and result in state savings of less than $2 million dollars. But the societal costs could be much greater.

Statistically we know that every year a person stays in school, the less likely they are to develop a substance abuse problem, parent a child out of wedlock, end up with a child in the DHS system, end up in the Department of Corrections, or receive TANF/SNAP benefits. These things all consume tax dollars - and that's why funds expended in education give taxpayers the most "bang for their buck."

Efforts to trim the budget to finance the proposed .025 percent tax cut must be scrutinized. I believe it’s foolish to blow up useful and meritorious programs just so politicians can beat their chest about delivering a tax cut.

As we move into the second half of the legislative session please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you have about pending legislation. I can be reached at ben@bensherrer.com or (800) 522-8592. Until next week, God bless you.