Equal Alternative Schooling Scholarship Act turns into regulation in Oklahoma

By Patrick B. McGuigan, editor

Proponents of solid school choice programs have been pleased with the passage of Senate Bill 1080, known as the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act.

In a press release from advocacy group Choice Matters, SB 1080 was described as “a milestone for those who want parents to have more options in where and how to raise their children”.

Robert Ruiz, executive director of Choice Matters, said in comments The City Sentinel and “As a parent, nothing is more important than making sure your children have an excellent education. And nothing is more daunting than feeling trapped in a school that doesn’t suit your child well. Equality scholarships help ensure that parents and children are never caught. Regardless of their income level, they can still pursue options and find the best solution. This is especially important for children with special needs or children who are coping with bullying.

“Our legislators have taken a position today to give parents and students more choices and more paths to success. We are grateful to see this kind of leadership and positive vision at the State Capitol, ”concluded Ruiz

Jonathan Small of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs was exuberant after the proposal passed legislature and Governor Stitt signed it. In a statement, Small said: “In decades that today’s children are adults, thousands of them will look back and know that thanks to the education that lawmakers have enabled today with this vote, they have been able to achieve great things.

“A high quality education opens the door to a better life for all children, but especially for those whose current circumstances are facing challenges that few of us can understand. When these families are confined to just one local public school, many of these children will be transformed in the short term by a system that is not tailored to their needs. By increasing school selection for these families, we’re making Oklahoma a better place – a place where families from different backgrounds have the opportunity to achieve and thrive.

“This is a great day for kids thanks to the leadership of Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat, Governor Kevin Stitt, House Speaker Charles McCall and the many lawmakers who supported this bill.”

In his statement, Treat emphasized, “The Equal Opportunities Scholarship Program provides tax credits to donors who volunteer to support education. The grants can be used by private schools to support low-income families and public schools for innovation or classroom support. “

SB 1080 increases the amount of tax credits within the program to $ 50 million, with half for private students and half for public students. Treat said the program has “helped homeless children and low-income families. The changes we’re making to the program will help ensure deserving students receive quality education that they might otherwise not be able to afford.

The Oklahoma City Republican said, “The changes will also generate more funding for public schools by giving their supporters more opportunities to donate. This is a huge bill for students, families, and education in Oklahoma at large. I appreciate the overwhelming support from my Senate colleagues and look forward to the Oklahoma House passing the bill. ”

Oklahoma City State Senator Carri Hicks is a staunch critic of school election programs despite the fact that many of her urban voters rely on her for access to better schools. She said: “I am increasingly disappointed that lawmakers are ignoring the will of their voters. It is not fair to give our tax dollars to private schools that have their own sources of income and use only a fraction of families in Oklahoma. The fact is, 90 percent of families in Oklahoma choose public schools. That is where our dollars should stay. “

Sen. Hicks’ perspective was overwhelmingly rejected in the Senate on May 18, when the upper chamber approved Law 36-11 (with one member not voting). In the House of Representatives, the Scholarship Act for Equal Opportunities 63-36 received support (two members did not vote).

Governor Kevin Stitt enthusiastically signed the legislation.

The state director general said: “It has become even more clear over the past year that education is not one size fits all. Parents and students across Oklahoma want more opportunities, and this program gives children more opportunities to attend the school that best suits their needs. ”

A legislative sketch by Choice Matters dismissed the oft-repeated claims made by Hicks and other critics of SB 1080: “Equal opportunity grants help children in low and modest income households attend private schools. Two-thirds of the Opportunity Scholarships go to students with an income of 185 percent or less of the federal poverty rate.

“The average income for a grantee is $ 45,000 for a family of four. Over 2,500 students receive a scholarship each year. In addition to serving students in low-income families, some face homelessness, addiction, autism, physical disabilities, bullying, and other situations that are difficult for public schools to deal with. “

The group’s analysis continued: “Equality grants also help public schools. Currently, any public school district with a student population below 4,500 (there are 166 districts that qualify) can apply for funding to support “innovative education programs”. For example, the Chickasha public school has used funds to support robotics and STEM programs.

“Tax credits contribute to the success of this program, which is backed by private dollars. Donors to both public school programs and private school scholarships receive a 50 percent tax credit on their donations (75 percent tax credit if the donor is willing to donate the same or more for two consecutive years) what has been achieved in recent years Discouraged growth and future donations. SB 1080 increases this cap to $ 50 million, which will result in more donations and more growth in the Equal Opportunities Scholarship Program. “

Jonathan Small, President of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), is a staunch and passionate advocate of parenting choice in education and other measures to bring quality education to families in need of wider educational opportunities. Photo provided.Oklahoma Senator President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, was a leading proponent of school election campaigns. Senator Carri Hicks from D-Oklahoma City is an opponent of school election programs. Official legislative photosOklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed an important school electoral law that gives families more opportunities to attend school.

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