Oklahoma school choice bill could have consequences

House Bill 1934 may be harmful to funding for public schools.
Governor Stitt celebrated the final passage of Oklahoma’s House Bill 1934 earlier this year. This bill’s other name is the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act. This bill creates a voucher program intended to alleviate the cost of attending accredited private schools. It essentially works as a scholarship, giving families up to $7,500 to cover tuition costs.
Stitt said at a ceremony last May celebrating this bill’s final passage, “Today is a major victory for parents and students across the state. With the House’s action today, we have made transformative change to improve education outcomes for Oklahoma students. I am grateful to all members of the Legislature who have stood with parents and gotten school choice across the finish line.”
Stitt has consistently been pro-school choice. In his 2023 State of the State address, he emphasized this as one of his goals for Oklahoma: “Every child deserves a quality education that fits their unique needs, regardless of economic status or background.”
The question this bill has posed for many Oklahomans is, what does it mean for public education?
Rodger Randle, a former legislator and current professor at OU-Tulsa, says this program will have a negative impact on resources for public schools.
“The house bill of course actually reduces available taxpayer money. So, it will impact on the short-term public schools because there will be less money for public schools,” said Randle.
State Representative John Waldron agrees with Randle on what this means for public education in Oklahoma, “It’s gonna come out of the general revenues of the state and we’re gonna have to reduce our spending on critical government services like public education for 700,000 kids.”
Randle believes this bill could ultimately have either no impact or a negative impact on increasing access to private schools. “That gives the private schools an opportunity to raise in tuition and raise their costs because families won’t have to pay more for the increased tuition costs, it’ll just be covered by the tax cut that the state government provided,” said Randle.
Waldron expounded on this point made by Randle. He explains that this bill will really only benefit already well-off families by making them pay less for the private education they could already afford. “Affluent families who already have children enrolled in private schools are going to be the primary beneficiaries of this $150 million tax giveaway,” said Waldron.
Overall, Waldron and Randle claim that some families may transition from public to private education as a result of this bill, but that number will be slim.
The breakdown of what the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act provides for families who choose to send their child to a private or charter school outside of their zip code-assigned public school is as follows:
$7,500 per student in households earning under $75,000 annually; $7,000 per student in households earning between $75,000 – $100,000 annually; $6,500 per student in households earning between $150,000 – $225,000 annually; $6,000 per student in households earning between $225,000 – $250,000 annually; and, $5,000 per student in households earning over $250,000 annually.
HB 1934 also provides $1,000 per child for parents who choose to homeschool. This bill is still in its infancy and the full impact of it is yet to be seen.

Post Author: Aurora Stewart