Friday, January 20, 2023

Sens. Daniels and Jett file universal school choice legislation

As with the legislation from last year (Treat's SB 1647), this sounds good... but the devil can be in the details -- especially as it relates to protecting homeschooling freedoms from government interference. I'll be watching this bill and the entire school choice debate in Oklahoma with interest, and a wary eye.

Senators file education freedom bills for Oklahoma families

OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Julie Daniels, R-Bartlesville, and Sen. Shane Jett, R-Shawnee, have filed universal school choice legislation to benefit children in all corners of the state. Daniels’ Education Freedom Act, Senate Bill 822, provides parents the option of tapping into a portion of their child’s education dollars to pay for a variety of education services, including tuition.

“It’s time to empower Oklahoma parents to be able to choose the best education for their own children, regardless of their zip code or financial circumstances,” Daniels said. “The Education Freedom Act gives them the tools to make that happen. If we truly want to be a top ten state, let’s give parents, seeking an alternative to their public school, the chance to give their child the best chance for academic success and the promise of a bright future.”

The bill allows parents to establish an account in the office of the State Treasurer from which to reimburse education service providers.  The amount available is determined by the annual state per pupil expenditure set by the Department of Education.  Daniels’ bill proposes funding to cover the cost of the program by increasing the state funding formula for schools by $275 million. She filed a companion bill, SB 825, to also raise the funding rate for Oklahoma’s smallest school districts.

“Our goal is to provide Oklahoma parents with a true choice among great educational options that best suit the unique needs of their children,” Jett said. “We can support and improve our local public schools while empowering parents with the flexibility to address their children’s unique learning needs. There are valid reasons why some families need an alternative to a local public school. It’s a false dichotomy to say, ‘you can either support public schools or school choice.’ With this legislation, we can do both - empower all Oklahoma families to choose which option works best for their unique educational needs.”

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters, who campaigned for office as a champion of school choice, welcomed news of the choice-expansion bills being filed.

“I will fiercely advocate as state superintendent Oklahoma’s students are our first priority,” Walters said. “Every option is on the table to make our education system better.  We must innovate and advocate for change at all levels in education.”


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