OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A large school funding bill overwhelming passed in the Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday but has another hurdle to make before it becomes law.
Those behind Senate Bill 1080 tell KFOR the additional funding will be life-changing for homeless children and low-income families, but not everyone is on board.
“I think, by and large, Oklahomans don’t support vouchers and this is a major expansion of a voucher program in the state of Oklahoma,” said Sen. Carri Hicks, (D) District 40.
Senate Bill 1080 is aimed at increasing funding for the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act.
“It will impact student’s lives greatly and it will have up to $50 million impact on tax credit,” Sen. Greg Treat, (R) District 47, said on the floor on Wednesday.
Currently, the funding for that scholarship program is $3.5 million annually in tax credits for donations to private school scholarships.
Senate Bill 1080 would increase the amount to $25 million.
It would also increase a tax-credit program for private donations to public schools. Raising the amount from $1.5 million to also $25 million.
“So, it gives a total of 50 – $25 million to private school education and $25 million to public schools,” Treat said.
But not everyone is on board.
“This is touted as a win for school choice. This is something that individuals who want to privatize education have been pushing for for a long time. It’s potentially excluding $50 million of revenue that could be appropriated,” Hicks said.
House member Forrest Bennett, (D) District 92, also has concerns.
“The disingenuous part about it is that the public school side is very rarely utilized and certainly never met the cap. The private school side has. So, they try to make it look like this is equitable but it really isn’t,” Bennett said.
Regardless, Treat says the bill is a win for Oklahomans – especially for kids in need.
“Take full advantage of it. This is going to change literally your family tree. You may be able to go to college or be able to have success. Many of these kids live from couch to couch or on the street,” Treat said.
The bill passing the Senate on Wednesday with a vote of 36-11.
It should be seen on the House floor tomorrow. If it passes there, it will then head to the governor’s desk.