A bill titled the “Oklahoma Education Savings Account Act” has been introduced in the state legislature. It would allow certain parents to establish an education savings account for their child.
The account would receive funding from the state based on the parents’ income.
State representative Jason Nelson, a Republican, introduced the measure in the house, and state senator Clark Jolley, also a Republican, introduced it into the state senate.
This measure would expand a current law that covers children with disabilities.
If enacted, this bill would take effect for next school year. Parents who sign up for the program would be able to use the money for a variety of educational purposes.
They could apply the funds to tuition and fees at private schools, virtual schools, virtual course-work providers and also post-secondary institutions. The fund could go to supplementary materials like textbooks or other items required by curriculum.
The funds would also cover “educational therapies and services.” The bill does not define these terms, leaving it to the Okla. State Department of Education to determine eligibility. Tutors are eligible for funding, but they are included in a separate clause of the bill.
An account could be used to cover “services provided by a public school.” Those include extracurricular activities.
National tests would also be covered. Presumably, it would cover the ACT, SAT and AP tests.
Parents could alternatively invest the funds in a Coverdell Savings Account, which is a federal education savings program with special tax privileges.
Finally, funds could be used for the financial management of the account and “insurance or surety bond payments” that the State Board of Education requires.
The eligibility for the savings account program is based on eligibility for the federal free and reduced price lunch program. Eligibility for that program varies by family size, but an Oklahoma family of four with an annual income of less than $44,123 would be eligible this school year.
Funding for the savings accounts are based on the funding a student would generate for a school based on a state aid formula.
Families that make through 100 percent of the free and reduced lunch program income threshold are eligible for 90 percent of education funds. Families with income between 100 and 150 percent of lunch program eligibility are eligible for 60 percent of education funds. Families that make 150 to 200 percent of lunch program eligibility would be eligible for 30 percent of education funds.
A similar bill failed to pass last year, but this year’s bill currently has more cosponsors.