Statement from Oklahoma State School Boards Association Executive Director Shawn Hime about Committee Passage of Senate Bill 407 and House Bill 2621:
“We are unwavering and unapologetic in our belief that the best way to support all of Oklahoma’s children is a well-funded public education system that has the resources to meet the needs of every student.
Even after last year’s increased investment, we aren’t there yet. Our state funds public schools at a per-student level that is below every other state in the region. Year after year, we’re shortchanging the nearly 700,000 children in public schools.
There is no doubt tax credits divert revenue that could otherwise be used to support underfunded public schools and other core services. It’s also inarguable that the tax credit law incentivizes private school tuition subsidies while failing to offer the same generous tax benefits for those who choose to donate directly to public schools or to established local education foundations. Legislators have the power to fix that disparity, and they should.
Legislators also can and should demand equitable accountability. Public schools must account for every penny spent, including grants, but very little information is publicly available about the tax credit voucher program. There’s no annual public mandated reporting of the number or amount of donations, of how many tuition-subsidizing vouchers are awarded, whether the vouchers are granted to the percentage of low-income students as required by law, whether recipient students ever attended a public school, whether the voucher-granting organizations are keeping administrative costs within allowable limits, or what private schools receive voucher students. Public reporting of this information is required in other states with similar programs. Oklahoma also doesn’t require reporting of how students receiving vouchers are performing academically.
Nearly 700,000 Oklahoma children are counting on legislators to make decisions that are in their collective and individual best interest. We look forward to working with lawmakers to make sure this legislation isn’t a roadblock to properly funding public schools and doesn’t disproportionately disadvantage public school students or public school donors. ”