OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Parents and republican supporters of the Oklahoma Senate Education Bill rallied in front of the state capitol Thursday.
State Education Superintendent Ryan Walters, Governor Kevin Stitt, and several other lawmakers joined parents and private school administrators to show their support for the bill, which they said would give parents more options for school choice.
“We don’t need to wait another year,” said Lauren Robinson, a parent of a special needs child. “The time really is now.”
Part of the bill would give parents $7,500 per child in tax credit towards private schools.
“When we talk about school choice, we’re also talking about private schools,” said Walters.
The Senate Education Bill has an income cap of $250,000 a year. If someone has two kids in private school and a household income of $250,000, that family would be eligible for $15,000 in private school tax credits every year. That household would pay around $10,822 in state income taxes. With this bill, the state would wipe out that household’s tax burden plus cut them a check for the remaining $4,178.
For a family making $100,000 a year with two kids in private school, the household would be eligible for $15,000 in vouchers. Under the Senate Bill, the state would wipe out the income tax burden of roughly $3,697 and send the household a check for the difference of $11,303.
In both scenarios, the private school families eliminate their state income tax and get a cash payment for private school expenses, funded by Oklahoma taxpayers.
“There is about 3% of Oklahomans that make more than $250,000,” said State Senator Julia Kirt of Oklahoma City. She said a lot of families would quality for the tax credit, but it would be a huge expense for taxpayers.
“This money doesn’t grow on trees. It comes from other taxpayers,” said Kirt. “If someone has kids, they can claim it. But if someone didn’t or if their kids are grown, they’re the ones that are paying it.”
Regardless, parents at the state capitol Thursday said it was time to give them a choice when it comes to their child’s education.
“Parents in Oklahoma need education freedom now,” said Blessing Omeke, parent with a child in private school.
“I would argue that’s an imprudent, irresponsible use of money, putting a whole lot of money into a very few number of kids and requiring that the whole of us pay for it,” said State Senator Jo Anna Dossett, (D) Tulsa. The bill made it through the senate today with a few amendments. Speaker Charles McCall, who authored the bill, did not want any changes before it went back to the house. However, at Thursday’s rally he said he would be open to negotiations.