OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma House of Representatives released its two-part Education Plan Thursday.
The first part would give public schools $500 million in increased funding for public schools, which included raises for teachers and staff. The second part would be called the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit. It would offer private and home school students a tax credit to use on things like tutoring, tuition, fees, textbooks, and instructional supplies.
“In order to claim the credit, the taxpayer’s child cannot be a full-time student in a public school district, public charter school, public virtual charter school, school or magnet school,” said Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka.
With nearly 37,000 private school students and another 22,000 home schoolers, the House plan was estimated to cost around $300 million.
“But we don’t believe that it will have that big of a price tag,” said McCall.
Parents with children in private schools would get a $5,000 tax credit per student. Parents with home school students would get $2,500 for each child. The money would have to be spent up front before parents could be reimbursed.
“This is a fully refundable tax credit that we’re talking about,” said McCall. “The taxpayer will have to retain all receipts, private school tuition and fees or qualified expense as at proof of the amount to claim the tax credit.”
Speaker McCall said the Oklahoma Tax Commission would essentially oversee the tax credits to make sure they were used correctly on current, eligible students.
News 4 reached out to the tax commission to ask if they had the manpower to handle the additional workload for the plan. The OTC sent us a statement that said, “The OTC is in the process of reviewing this proposed legislation and any potential corresponding revenue and/or administrative related issues.”
Representative Forrest Bennett has questioned the bill and said it was not fair to lower income districts across the state.
“Especially when it comes to lower income students, an equal approach is not the right thing to do. An equitable approach is the right thing to do,” said Bennett. “The larger school districs in Oklahoma, including the one that I represent – OKCPS – will be negatively impacted by this.”
The Oklahoma Education Association also reacted to the proposed legislation. The OEA agreed with the first part of the bill but not the tax credits.
“Taxpayer dollars are public funds that should go to public schools,” said Katherine Bishop, president of the OEA.
The plan passed a House committee and will now move to a full House floor vote, which could take place as soon as next week.