March 18, 2022

Sharon Bishop-Baldwin: Sand Springs superintendent among critics of school voucher bills

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Oklahoma’s legislature has been considering one of the most damaging mega-voucher bills anywhere in the country. One superintendent explains why the Oklahoma Empowerment Act is such a bad idea. 

Dubbed the “Oklahoma Empowerment Act,” Senate Bill 1647 by Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat would allow taxpayer funding to follow a student from a public school to a private school or home school.

Each voucher — Treat prefers the term “savings account” — would be worth an estimated average of $5,800, according to the nonprofit Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration.

Every school-age child in Oklahoma who attends a private school or is home-schooled — estimated to be more than 60,000 youngsters — would be eligible for a voucher even if they’ve never attended public school.

That means that if SB 1647 were to pass, Oklahoma public schools could lose as much as $360 million as soon as the next school year, the council said.

That’s if funding stays flat and no current public school students take vouchers and opt out of public schools.

And because the taxpayer money would be taken off the top of the state education funding pot, every public school district in the state would see a decline in funding if students anywhere in Oklahoma were to withdraw “their share” of taxpayer money.

‘Public funds for public purposes’

“‘My tax dollars, my money’ is a flawed idea,” Durkee said Friday. “The money we pay into taxes is intended to be a pooled pot of money to provide public services for a lot of things, such as public education, public safety and infrastructure.

“The idea is that all of us as a public group utilize those services,” she said. “These are public funds for public purposes.

“I think that’s part of what people may be missing about that idea.”

Read the full op-ed here.

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