OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A measure that would use taxpayer money to help families send their children to private school failed during a late-night session at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
Sen. Greg Treat said Senate Bill 1647, which is known as the Oklahoma Empowerment Act, would take the roughly $3,600 the state would normally spend a year on a public school student and put it in a savings account. That way, the parents would be able to use those funds toward a private school education.
“It’s not a good idea to send public dollars off the grid. Public dollars belong in public schools,” said Sen. JJ Dossett, of Owasso, earlier this month.
Private school advocates were in full support of the measure.
“Some of it is just income based. A lot of our parents just can’t afford it, but if we have this bill and it’s passed, we will be able to have those kids,” said Gina Darby, of Infinity.
However, the $3,600 a year would not come close to covering the cost of most private schools in the metro. Advocates argued that low-income families could then apply for financial assistance, while critics said the measure simply helped families who could already afford private schooling.
Opponents also expressed concerns about removing millions of dollars from public education.
On Wednesday night, Senate Bill 1647 failed 22-24 in the Oklahoma Senate.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister released the following statement on the bill’s failure:
“Senate Bill 1647, a voucher scheme designed by Gov. Stitt, would have effectively destroyed public schools in Oklahoma. I am grateful parents and communities have been heard loud and clear. Oklahomans want strong, neighborhood schools in urban areas and in small towns across the state. Parents want the focus on increasing support for all our public school students and to urgently solve our teacher shortage. Our kids can’t wait. ”
Gov. Kevin Stitt released the following statement:
“I am grateful to Pro Tem Greg Treat and every senator who voted to put parents in charge of their child’s education. At the same time, it is deeply concerning that so many voted to deny parents and students choices and keep them trapped in a system that has failed many Oklahoma children and left our state 49th in the nation in education.
Every child deserves the opportunity to attend the school that best works for them, regardless of their zip code or income level, and I will never stop fighting to empower parents and fund students over systems.”Gov. Kevin Stitt