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Oklahoma Legislature passes private school tax credit plan

The Oklahoma House gave final approval Tuesday to a bill that would give as much as $250 million a year in tax credits to parents or guardians of children attending private schools, but will be a big hit to the state budget.

The House will not send the measure to the governor for enactment until a deal is reached on school funding.

Republican House Speaker Charles McCall said he will hold the bill until there is an agreement on an education funding plan that must include “needed support” for rural districts.  

“We are calling on the Senate to either pass the governor’s compromise plan, or move off their hardline position and come back to the negotiation table on a public education plan that works for every school in the state,” McCall said in a statement.

In April, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt unveiled a three-part education plan that consists of private school-related tax credits, a $300 student fund, and a $300 boost in the school funding formula that would accommodate teachers raises.

Senate Pro Tem Greg Treat, a Republican, chastised the House for rejecting a measure passed by his chamber to give teachers what he called the largest pay raise in state history.

The House turned down the Senate’s version of House Bill 2672, which would increase school funding by $500 million with $372 million earmarked for teacher raises.

“The unprecedented move to hold the school choice legislation hostage until the Senate agrees to pass the constitutionally questionable Oklahoma Student Fund and other pet projects is also a non-starter for the Senate Republican caucus,” Treat said in a statement.

Stitt, meanwhile, hailed the passage of the Parental Choice Tax Credit Act, saying it will bring “transformative change to improve education outcomes for Oklahoma students.” 

Unlike school vouchers, which reimburse private school tuition and expenses, Oklahoma would offer annual, per-student tax credits of $5,000 to $7,500 depending on household income, as well as $1,000 in tax credits for qualified homeschooling expenses.   

The credits would be capped at $150 million in 2024, $200 million in 2025, and $250 million in 2026 and in subsequent years. Homeschool tax credits are capped at $5 million annually.

House Democrats said the measure prioritizes vouchers over public schools. 

“The bill takes hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools and reroutes it to subsidize the private school education of wealthy families,” State Rep. John Waldron, House Democratic Caucus vice chairman, said in a statement.

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