We urge legislators to work with parents and education leaders at all levels for real solutions to support the 700,000 students in their public schools.

Why We Oppose Vouchers

A voucher by another name is still a voucher. Here's why they're troublesome for taxpayers and harmful to the vast majority of Oklahoma children served in public schools.

  • Oklahoma underfunds its public schools and can’t afford to fund a dual education system. 
  • Despite increased investment the last few years, Oklahoma is last in the region in per-student investment and needs to invest about $1 billion more annually just to reach the regional average.
  • Oklahoma already has a school voucher program that has shifted more than $38 million away from public schools to private schools over the last decade with no accountability for how private schools spend the money or student achievement.
  • Oklahoma funds private schools accepting vouchers first — before sending any money to public schools, and there’s no mechanism to reduce or recoup private school voucher funding even if funding is reduced mid-year for public schools.
  • Vouchers erode public school funding and harms the 700,000 students who attend public schools.
  • Public schools have a significant level of accountability to families and the communities they serve as well as to state and federal policymakers. Public schools must give state-mandated tests, adhere to state-adopted academic standards and face sanctions if students aren’t performing well. Under current law and proposed legislation, the state isn’t allowed to collect any student achievement-related data from private schools even if they receive state funding through vouchers.
  • Private schools accepting vouchers have no:
    • Limit on administrative spending.
    • Obligation to report how the voucher money was spent.
    • Accountability or public reporting for student achievement.
    • Requirement for standardized testing.
    • Requirement to accept all students.
    • Curriculum requirements or oversight.
    • Guarantee students with special needs will receive needed services.
    • Opportunity to elect/select governance leaders.
  • Oklahoma’s public schools serve every student, and public school choice abounds. Tens of thousands of students attend a school not in their home district every year. Whether it’s on a transfer to another district, charter school, virtual charter school, a CareerTech or even a college that offers concurrent enrollment, Oklahoma students have myriad school options that are accountable for taxpayer dollars and educational progress.
  • Private schools choose who to accept – and who to turn away. And students that accept vouchers forfeit their access to specialized services to meeting their individual special needs.

What are Lindsey Nicole Henry vouchers?

As its name implies, the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program was created specifically to support students with special education needs. However, over the last several years, the Legislature has significantly expanded the scope of the program even though little information is readily and publicly available to taxpayers about how the money is used and what students are served.

  • From 2011 to the present, the LNH program diverted more than $38 million in public money through parents to private schools to serve qualifying students.
  • Despite the growing cost, little information is readily available about how the money is being spent or how well students are being served.
  • HB 1230, passed during the 2020 legislative session, requires more information be made available about the program readily available on the state Education Department’s website, including:
    • The total number and amount of scholarships awarded and reported for each participating private school;
    • The total number of scholarships denied;
    • The total number and amount of scholarship payments suspended for each participating private school;
    • Data on participating students, disaggregated by years of participation in the program, grade level, gender, economically disadvantaged status, racial and ethnic groups and disability category.
  • Vouchers are funded “off the top” of state aid and directly reduce the dollars available for distribution to public schools.
  • The program has no income cap so any student who meets eligibility criteria is eligible regardless of the family’s income. Once a voucher is received, a student can continue to receive a voucher annually even if they no longer meet initial eligibility requirements.
  • The voucher amount is based on the student’s weighted value as calculated according to the state’s education funding formula. It can’t exceed tuition and fee charges, and the state Education Department may retain up to 2.5% for administrative costs.
  • Students are eligible for a voucher through one of four paths:
    • A child who has an IEP and attended public school in the previous year (unless student is a dependent of an active military service member).
    • A child who was adopted while in the permanent custody of the Department of Human Services (DHS), or is in out-of-home placement with DHS, or is in out-of-home placement with the Office of Juvenile Affairs. (No previous public school attendance required).
    • A child provided services under an Individual Family Service Plan through the SoonerStart program and during transition was evaluated and determined to be eligible for school district services. (No previous public school attendance required).
    • A student who is a current recipient and wishes to renew.