EXCLUSIVE: Oklahoma Gov. To Announce Sweeping School Choice Reform

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Chrissy Clark Contributor
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Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is slated to announce a sweeping school choice bill Monday at the State of the State address, the Daily Caller exclusively learned.

Stitt will introduce the Oklahoma Empowerment Act, an educational savings account program designed to “fund students” instead of public school systems. Oklahoma’s Secretary of Education Ryan Walters told the Daily Caller that all students eligible for private school are eligible for Oklahoma Empowerment Accounts.

Eligible students can receive approximately $3,600 in an educational savings account to pay for books, tuition, transportation and other educational expenses, according to Walters. Students with special needs or extenuating circumstances may be eligible for increased funding.

The program funds less than the average per-pupil expenditure in assigned public school districts, according to data compiled by EdChoice.

“Just 15% of Oklahoma high school graduates are ready for college in English, math, reading, and science,” Stitt plans to tell Oklahoma legislators. “Less than one out of five. We can do better than 47th in the nation when it comes to our kids.”

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt speaks during a roundtable discussion with US President Donald Trump about economic reopening of closures due to COVID-19, known as coronavirus, in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, June 18, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images

The Republican governor claims that the educational savings account program will “make sure that money follows the student” and will make Oklahoma “a national leader in school choice.”

The bill intends to ensure “that parents, legal guardians and others with legal authority over children in [Oklahoma] be able to seek educational services that meet the needs of their individual children.” (RELATED: The Best States For School Choice Programs)

Oklahoma previously enacted a school choice program in 2013 that offers individuals and businesses tax credits for donations to scholarship organizations or nonprofits that provide private school scholarships, according to EdChoice. Experts urged Oklahoma policymakers to convert the program into an educational savings account, as the Oklahoma Empowerment Act does.

Corey DeAngelis, the Director of Research at the American Federation for Children, told the Daily Caller that the Oklahoma bill will be “even more expansive” than West Virginia’s, which saw the “biggest school choice victory in 2021.”

“West Virginia had the biggest school choice victory in 2021. Oklahoma’s proposal would be even more expansive,” DeAngelis said. “The latest polling indicates that 86% of Oklahoma school parents support funding students instead of systems.”

DeAngelis also dubbed parents “the new special interest group in town.”

“[Parents] aren’t going away any time soon,” DeAngelis said. “Politicians from all parties would be wise to follow Governor Stitt’s lead and listen to parents going forward.”