OKLAHOMA CITY – Advocates for school choice and education reform today thanked Oklahoma legislators for passing Senate Bill 1080, a bill which raises the tax credit cap for the Equal Opportunity Scholarship program from $5 million to $50 million.
Equal Opportunity Scholarships help children in low and modest-income households attend private schools. Two-thirds of Opportunity Scholarships go to students with incomes at or below 185% of the federal poverty level. The average income of a scholarship recipient is $45,000 for a family of four. Over 2,500 students receive scholarship dollars each year. In addition to serving students in lower-income families, some are coping with homelessness, addiction, autism, physical disabilities, bullying, and other situations which are difficult for public schools to manage.
Equal Opportunity Scholarships also help public schools. Currently, any public school district with a student population under 4,500 (there are 166 districts that meet that qualification) can apply for funds to support “innovative educational programs.” For example, Chickasha public school has used funds to support robotics and STEM programs.
Tax credits drive the success of this program, which is supported by private dollars. Donors to both public-school programs and private school scholarships receive a 50% tax credit on their donations (75% tax credit if the donor is willing to donate the same or greater amount for two consecutive years.) However, the $5 million cap had been reached in recent years, discouraging growth and future donations. SB 1080 raises that cap to $50 million, which will encourage more donations and more growth in the Equal Opportunity Scholarship program.
ChoiceMatters Executive Director Robert Ruiz said the passage of SB1080 was a landmark achievement for those looking to give parents more options when it comes to where and how to educate their children.
“As a parent, nothing is more important than ensuring your kids are receiving a great education,” said Ruiz. “And nothing is more dispiriting than feeling trapped in a school that isn’t a good fit for your child. Equal Opportunity Scholarships help to ensure that parents and children are never trapped; regardless of their income level, they can still pursue options and find the best fit. That is especially important for children with special needs or children coping with bullying.
“Our lawmakers took a stand today on behalf of giving parents and students more choices and more pathways to success,” Ruiz continued. “We are grateful to see that kind of leadership and positive vision at the State Capitol.”
SB 1080 now goes to Governor Kevin Stitt for his signature.