Thursday, February 14, 2019

Legislative Committees Advance Equal Opportunity Scholarship Expansions

Oklahoma Legislative Committees Advance Equal Opportunity Scholarship Expansions

OKLAHOMA CITY – Committees in the Oklahoma House and Senate have passed two bills expanding the Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship program. The program currently offers tax credits to donors who give to non-profit organizations funding innovative learning opportunities in rural public schools, or that fund scholarships for students attending private school.

Opportunity Scholarship donations support STEM and arts programs in rural public schools, such as Chickasha High School’s robotics team. In the private sector, schools like Cristo Rey Oklahoma City Catholic High School and Crossover Preparatory Academy in Tulsa rely on Opportunity Scholarships to offer free or vastly discounted college-prep educations to underserved, inner-city communities.

Although proven to be successful, the Opportunity Scholarship program’s growth has been hindered by a tax-credit cap. Currently, the state can only pay out $5 million in tax credits for donors. That limit has been reached for two years in a row, which has discouraged additional contributions.

House Bill 2621, by Rep. Jon Echols, increases the tax credit cap to $60 million, and also allows larger school districts to benefit from programs supporting public schools. In the Senate, Senate Bill 407, by Sen. Dave Rader, increases the cap to $20 million. Both bills were advanced by the Appropriations Committees in their respective chambers.

In attendance at both committee hearings were parents who thanked legislators for their support.

“In our public-school system, Opportunity Scholarship dollars are helping to fund some of the most innovative, successful programs offered in the state,” said ChoiceMatters Executive Director Robert Ruiz. “For those students who attend private schools, students are changing the entire trajectory of their lives thanks to these scholarships. Our thanks go out to lawmakers supporting policies that empower parents and directly impact students.”


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