Oklahoma to launch tax credit-based school choice program

by Jacob Fuller

Katie Kerekes, FISM News

The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed a school choice bill Wednesday that would bypass state involvement in parental decisions regarding the education of their children, garnering praise from Republican Governor Kevin Stitt.

In tandem with legislation that would increase the salaries of “all active classroom teachers,” the Oklahoma Parental Choice Act, which swept the floor with a 75 to 25 vote, will provide a refundable tax credit for all families that could be used toward private education and even homeschooling, according to a report from the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF).

“What we did was we give a $5,000 tax credit, but it’s refundable,” Stitt told the DCNF.

In other words, you can get $5,000 to move and go to a school of your choice. That’s the great thing about it is now we’re funding students, not necessarily the system or the zip code where you happen to live. It’s gonna allow you to be more flexible with where the kids go and have the dollars follow the kid whether it’s to a private school, another public school, it doesn’t really matter. That’s the exciting thing about it and there’s no income limits to it.

In contrast to typical school choice programs which administer state-issued vouchers to families, Republican Speaker of the Oklahoma House and author of the bill Charles McCall says this program keeps the transaction “strictly between the students, parent and or guardian and the school where the state is completely disconnected from money, from influence over the school and the parent in any way.”

McCall says this approach will best preserve the integrity of private education and the “ultimate parent’s choice of how they want to educate the child if they choose something other than public education.”

Families who are unable to afford the $5,000 upfront are eligible to participate in the program by requesting the credit from the Oklahoma Tax Commission, which has oversight authority, and students with disabilities are eligible for the state’s scholarship program that is stackable with the tax credit program.

The Parental Choice Act not only discourages state influence in parental school choice, but McCall says it also gives parents the freedom to remove their children from institutions that are teaching harmful doctrines such as Critical Race Theory or gender identity ideology.

“This empowers parents to get their child into a different environment if that is happening in a school district or within a classroom,” McCall said. “We need to make sure parents have all choices and options at their disposal.”

Governor Stitt’s full statement regarding the bill can be found on the state’s website here.