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School Choice in Oklahoma closer to reality

April 26, 2011 J

Senate Bill 969 PASSED TODAY! Oklahoma will have School Choice – and it is now within reach! Well almost. It passed the State House today (Tuesday) and is heading back over to the State Senate to pass a few small adjustments the House made, and then off to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. Keep up the pressure, because this bill is good for Oklahoma and Oklahomans.

The legislature is currently in its second major deadline week of the session – passing bills from the opposite chamber. For the past few weeks, the House of Representatives have been working on Senate bills, while the Senate has been working on House bills. All of that work must be completed by Thursday, so any measures not heard by then will be dead for this session. So this week has been a busy one for our state legislators.

And SB 969 was one of those. It passed by a vote of 64-33, but was amended, so the bill goes back to the Senate for another vote. It previously passed out of the upper chamber, 30-14, in March.

As we have mentioned before, AFP-Oklahoma greatly supports this measure. The education system is vital for our state and our future. If our schools produce prepared kids, they will advance further in the educational apparatus and be attractive to employers. And if Oklahoma produces more well-educated graduates, those businesses will be attracted to move here and stay here. And of course, more businesses equal better salaries for our citizens and more revenue for our state. This is an issue that impacts all of us – whether we have children in school or not.

The measure aims to increase competition in the state’s educational setup by allowing individuals or companies to receive tax credits when they give to a scholarship-granting organization. Individuals would receive a 50 percent tax credit for amounts up to $1,000, while married couples would receive a 50 percent credit up to $2,000. Companies would qualify for a 50 percent credit up to $100,000. The money given would be used to cover tuition at accredited private schools in Oklahoma. Children that qualify for the program would be eligible for scholarships amounting up to $5,000 or 80 percent of the per-pupil cost of attending public school. They have to come from families with less than 300 percent of the requirement for the free/reduced lunch program and/or any child in a district classified as requiring improvement from the No Child Left Behind program.

This doesn’t hurt public schools, despite what detractors of this bill say. It actually means the money originally intended for the child that transferred out will stay with the public school, meaning the remaining students will receive more funding.

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