(The Center Square) – A bill giving parents up to $7,500 in tax credits to send their children to the school of their choice is headed to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s desk after a stalemate between the House and Senate ended.
House Speaker Charles McCall said Monday that the House would send House Bill 1934 after holding it for nearly two weeks as the two houses haggled over the education plan. The bill also includes a $1,000 tax credit per child for homeschooled children.
The homeschool credits are capped at $5 million a year. The private school tax credits are capped at $150 million in the tax year 2024, $200 million in the tax year 2025, and $250 million in the tax year 2026 and subsequent tax years, according to the bill.
School choice will help benefit students “for the rest of their lives,” said Jennifer Carter, Senior Advisor, American Federation for Children-Oklahoma.
“This development is truly transformative for Oklahoma’s education landscape,” Carter said in a statement. “Broad-based school choice produces better academic outcomes as more children have access to the environment that best suits their unique needs, whether that’s in a public school, private school, or homeschool.”
Lawmakers also agreed on education spending that allocates $286 million for teacher raises between $3,000 and $6,000 annually, depending on years of service. Lawmakers agreed to spend $50 million yearly on school security measures over the next three years.
Oklahoma Senate Democrats criticized legislative leaders for tying the school choice tax credits to education funding.
“This proposal continues the supermajority’s false narrative that increased funding for public school students must be linked to a voucher scheme,” said Sen. Jo Anna, Dossett, D-Tulsa. “Oklahoma families, even those that attend private schools, are not asking for this arrangement. Linking the two together makes it clear that vouchers do not have the support they need on their own.
The agreement does not meet the educational needs of all Oklahoma students, said Sen. Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City.
“It is important to remember that we are talking about $600 million over three years that will not serve 95% of Oklahoma students,” Hicks said. “This voucher scheme is a tax shelter for individuals who can already afford private school tuition.”
Next on the agenda is the state budget and proposed tax cuts. Stitt said last week it would be a “shame” if lawmakers don’t agree on a tax cut this session. The session is expected to end on May 24.