The Oklahoma House of Representatives on Thursday gave final approval to a bill which will expand the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act in a 63-36 vote. The scholarship program offers tax credits to businesses and individuals that donate to scholarship-granting organizations and to public school districts that include charter schools.
Senate Bill 1080 would increase the amount of tax credits available for scholarship program donations from $3.5 million to $25 million per year. The amount available for donations to public schools would rises from $1.5 million to $25 million annually.
Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, praised Oklahoma policymakers for the expansion.
“Decades from now, when today’s children are adults, thousands of them will look back and know they were able to achieve great things thanks to the education made possible by lawmakers with this vote today,” Small said. “A quality education opens the door to a better life for all children, but especially those whose current circumstances are mired in challenges few of us can comprehend.”
Supported by the Oklahoma State School Board Association, SB 1080 further allows public schools with fewer than 4,500 students to apply for funds for “innovative educational programs.” Examples include robotics and STEM programs that prepare students for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics-related fields.
Two-thirds of the 2,500 students who currently benefit from Opportunity Scholarships are from low-income families.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said he is “thrilled” the bill awaits his signature.
“I will always fight for parents to be able to choose a school that best fits their child’s needs, regardless of ZIP code or income level,” Stitt said in a statement. “I look forward to signing SB 1080 into law.”