Oklahoma Gov. Stitt renews support for school choice as legislation pends in state senate

In his state of the state address on Monday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt prioritized education reform and school choice.

“Parents spoke loud and clear at the ballot box last November in support of our vision to create more options for kids,” said Stitt. “Every child deserves a quality education that fits their unique needs, regardless of economic status, or background.

“Let’s fund students, not systems.”

The governor’s executive budget includes education savings accounts (ESAs) and performance-based pay raises for teachers. 

Meanwhile, Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, has introduced SB 822, the “Education Freedom Act,” which would establish universal school choice through ESAs available to all Oklahoma students. 

“It’s time to empower Oklahoma parents to be able to choose the best education for their own children, regardless of their zip code or financial circumstances,” said Daniels in a press release. “The Education Freedom Act gives them the tools to make that happen.”  

Her bill proposes $275 million in additional state funding for the new program.  

Oklahoma’s current voucher program is only available to students with special learning needs.  

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters has also expressed support for school choice and performance-based teacher pay, in addition to criticizing progressive ideology, as previously reported by The Lion.  

“We will reform all of our education system,” said Walters. “There will be accountability and transparency. There will be school choice. We will ensure that indoctrination and CRT (Critical Race Theory) are eliminated in our state.”  

He also cited illiteracy as a major problem, which isn’t unique to Oklahoma. Many states – including Baltimore, Louisiana, and Colorado – are struggling to improve their embarrassingly low scores in reading and math.  

Even prior to the pandemic, only 32% of the Oklahoma’s students were proficient in math while 34% were proficient in reading.  

Mutiple studies have shown that voucher programs improve test scores. Even students who remain in the public system benefit from the rising tide of competition.  

SB 822 is currently being considered by the Senate’s Appropriations Committee. Governor Stitt’s executive budget will also be reviewed by the legislature.