The Legislature and Governor Kevin Stitt scored a huge victory for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students in Oklahoma this session.
Senate Bill 1080, which passed the House and Senate with an overwhelming majority and was signed by the governor, will help hundreds of families provide the right educational environment for their children.
Technically, the bill increases the amount of tax credits available to generous Oklahomans who donate to scholarship organizations or certain public school foundations.
But what most people need to know is that updating the existing law means more money will be available for families who believe a private school is the right environment for their child.
The Equal Opportunities Scholarship Act does not divert tax money to private schools. Instead, it offers people a consumer-driven way to donate their own money to support students who are not thriving in a public school.
This is great news for families who live in an area where schools are underperforming, children with special challenges and anyone who wants a special education experience.
When defining education policy, the highest goal should be to meet the needs of young people. Expanding financial aid opportunities allows more parents to make the best decisions for their children.
Because much of the discussion about SB 1080 has focused on private schools, many people overlook the fact that it also expands tax credits for people who support public schools. In other words, SB 1080 will encourage donations to all schools.
Families who want a school that matches their core beliefs win. Students who try to escape bullying, drug addiction and homelessness win. Children with special needs will benefit from the highly skilled care they need to thrive. Students in public schools will have more STEM opportunities and other special programs.
Even the state budget wins, as taxpayers get an ROI of almost 400% for every dollar donated to an organization that awards scholarships under this program.
It’s no wonder SB 1080 is so popular, or why Governor Stitt signed the bill. The law has presented an opportunity to make things better for all types of students and many schools across our state.
We are grateful that state leaders have stood up for the children and taken such a positive step to improve education in Oklahoma.
Hopper Smith is a former state lawmaker and retired Brigadier General, now chairman of the board of the Opportunity Scholarship Fund.