Oklahoma’s School Choice Bill Gains National Approvals

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A major push to expand school choice is not only receiving widespread attention and support in Oklahoma, but also nationwide support, as top conservative leaders have now endorsed the bill.

Senate Bill 1647, by Senate Pro Tempore Speaker Greg Treat, would create the Oklahoma Empowerment Account (OEA) program. Under the program, most students eligible to enroll in a public school would be eligible for an AEO, which could be used to pay for a range of educational services, including private school tuition. As originally introduced, the bill included homeschooling families, but the bill was later amended to remove them.

The money deposited into the account comes from the per-student allocation of state funding already spent on a child’s education. The base funding provided will be $3,619 per child, although some students will receive more depending on various factors.

The bill passed two Senate committees and now awaits a vote of the full Senate. The measure was endorsed by Governor Kevin Stitt, who has been a strong supporter.

Several national conservative leaders have issued endorsements this week, including former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, a Republican from Pennsylvania who carried Oklahoma in the 2012 GOP presidential primary; David Barton, founder of WallBuilders, an organization dedicated to showcasing America’s history “with a focus on the moral, religious, and constitutional foundations upon which America was built”; Rick Green, founder of Patriot Academy, a leadership training program specializing in applied civics with a biblical, historical, and constitutional basis; and Mark Meckler, president and co-founder of the Convention of the States, the organization that was former US Senator Tom Coburn’s primary focus before his death.

“Oklahomans have a great opportunity to take power from largely irresponsible education bureaucrats and give it to families by passing SB 1647,” Santorum said. “By putting parents in charge of their children’s education funds, SB 1647 will allow true educational freedom to flourish in Oklahoma and allow families to obtain the best schooling possible for their children, including education consistent with their religious values. If this bill has a flaw, it’s that homeschooled families are currently not included, but lawmakers can easily correct that oversight through amendments, and I encourage them to do so.

“SB 1647 by Oklahoma Senate Pro Tempore Greg Treat aligns with the beliefs of our nation’s founders and their fundamental belief that individual families know best when it comes to raising their children,” Barton said. “It’s your money, so you should be able to use it to educate your children however you see fit, without any government program obligations. Senator Treat’s SB1647 will help Oklahoma get back to the founding principles that are the foundation even from our great country.

“Families across the country have been alarmed because many local schools teach children that the United States is an inherently corrupt and racist nation, but these families often face fierce resistance from administrators when they oppose it,” Green said. “SB 1647 will give parents power over education bureaucrats and put families at the center of education policy in these disputes. By allowing money to follow a child to any education provider, including private schools, SB 1647 puts parents in control of the wheel and ensures a school system that meets families’ needs, not at the whim of anti-American ideologues.

“Our nation’s future cannot be secured without an educated population,” Meckler said. “This goal is best achieved by placing the responsibility for education in the hands of parents so that those who know a child best are the ones who decide how that child is brought up. SB 1647 pursues this goal and deserves support. Tomorrow’s leaders are in today’s classrooms. Shouldn’t we want to give them the best schooling possible?


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