Oklahoma passed two pieces of legislation Wednesday that together would create the state’s first education choice plan.
The Parental Choice Tax Credit Act would provide an income tax credit to a student’s parent or guardian for certain educational expenses, including up to $5,000 per student for private school tuition. The amount increases to $6,000 and $6,500, respectively, in 2024 and 2025.
Families of students educated by other means, such as homeschooling or private tutors, would be capped at $1,000 tax credits per student for qualifying educational expenses.
The funding for the program will be prioritized for those families making less than $250,000 annually if the program goes over budget. The total amount of tax credits is also capped at $200 million annually.
When he introduced the plan, Stitt said that Oklahomans had to come together to pass a plan that would improve school performance, said local KOCO TV news.
“After months of negotiations and meetings with both the House and the Senate, I am proud to present this plan and believe it is the best path forward to get education reform done this year,” said Governor Stitt, in a statement. “I am calling on the House and Senate to come together and get this across the finish line. Parents can’t wait another year for real reform. Let’s take another step forward to fund students, not just systems in Oklahoma.”
The plan also includes a significant pay raise for Oklahoma teachers, with increases ranging from $2,000-$5,000.
“This is fantastic news for Oklahomans,” said Atchison in a tweet. “The governor’s plan funds public schools across the state, gives every teacher a pay raise, and provides parents a tax credit to send their child to a school of their choice.”
The governor’s office said that the proposal also included new, significant measures of student performance “to better ensure dollars are on target to provide the best education possible,” reports local KJRH 2 News Oklahoma.
Stitt took pains to try to eliminate income caps on spending.
“The rich folks already have school choice,” said Stitt at the beginning of the month, according to local Fox 25 Oklahoma. “They already have options. But I’m thinking about the moms that are stuck in a zip code in Tulsa, and during COVID, their school was shut down.”
He used as an example the mother of a disabled son who is seeking better educational opportunities for him.
“Why are we standing in the way? Why is the government not giving her more options, and we fund students, not necessarily systems,” said Stitt.
The Senate has agree on the language of HB 1935 and HB 2775 before the bills are heard in that chamber.