All children deserve an education that meets their specific needs and helps them reach their full potential.
As our state has increased its investment in schools — including raising teacher pay — we have also wisely created ways for our citizens and companies to get involved. The Equal Opportunity Scholarship Act authorizes tax credits for people who donate to private school scholarship funds and grants for public schools.
To help public schools in rural and suburban areas, people donate to education improvement grant organizations to fund opportunities such as robotics activities, dual-credit college classes and advanced placement courses not otherwise available for high school students.
Additionally, scholarship-granting organizations have helped thousands of families send their children to accredited private schools they couldn’t afford otherwise. Kids have gotten away from bullies, found the smaller classes they need to learn effectively, gained specialized support for their learning differences and experienced safety while dealing with homelessness.
Thousands of generous Oklahomans have pledged money to fund scholarships and improve education. In fact, in the past two years, so many people have made donations, donors have only received a portion of the credits they were promised.
There’s an easy fix: Increasing the cap on tax credits the state can issue for these donations.
Raising the cap will help public and private schools, but it will not place an additional burden on the state budget. A study by Oklahoma City University economists found every $1 of tax credit issued for scholarships saves $1.51 in the state budget.
In other words, the credits more than pay for themselves by leveraging private dollars to benefit all Oklahoma kids.
This is a highly regarded, well-managed program that helps children across our state. Senate Bill 407 provides $15 million in tax credits for people who support public schools, along with $15 million in credits for people who support private school scholarships.
Oklahomans understand well-crafted, targeted tax credits, such as those supporting aerospace engineers and film production, move our state forward. This credit is even more important; it is the one that directly helps educate our children.
I urge the Legislature to pass a bill to raise the tax-credit cap for donations to scholarship-granting organizations and education improvement grant organizations.
Rob Sellers lives in Tulsa. He is a member of the Elevate Oklahoma’s Kids coalition.