TULSA, Okla. — Governor Kevin Stitt is allocating nearly $40 million in funds as a part of an emergency education relief plan.
Stitt is using funds from the federal CARES Act and giving $10 million to private schools.
The private school portion is called the 'Stay in School Oklahoma Fund', where 1,500 Oklahoma families will get more than $6,000 federal tax dollars to help pay private school tuition.
According to the governor's website, the purpose of the Stay in School Fund is to help families with children in private schools, who have taken a financial hit by COVID-19, to keep their kids in school.
Officials said the funds go to low-income families. Parents like Kara Butler can apply for up to $6,500 to keep their kids in schools like Holland Hall, right here in Tulsa. “I think sometimes people forget just how much money goes into a school,” Butler said.
Kara Butler has two first graders at Holland Hall. As a small business owner, she says her family took a financial hit from the pandemic.
There are many children that have reasons that make the private school option better. And that doesn’t always mean the family can afford the school tuition.
Butler said it was hard to decide whether or not to send her children back to school this fall, but she knows Holland Hall will keep her kids safe. “It’s been a very interesting time for me, trying to decide what’s best for my kids. I know that Holland Hall has put some great steps in place so that they can keep the kids safe," Butler said.
While Holland Hall may keep Butler's kids safe, education advocates, like Alicia Priest, are calling out the governor for his spending, saying those funds would be better spent on public schools.
It is disheartening, and quite frankly unbelievable that the governor would specify such large amounts of money to go to private schools, private entities, non-profits, when 91 percent of our school children attend public schools in Oklahoma.
With the first day of school just around the corner, Alicia Priest said, she doesn't believe the public schools of Oklahoma are ready. “Our schools don’t have what they need. They don’t have the face to face materials. They don’t have the PPE. They don’t have cleaning equipment; they don’t have all of the things that are necessary to have a safe start to school. Governor Stitt could’ve been the hero here,” Priest said.
Priest said Oklahoma Education Association sent the Governor's Office a letter explaining what they needed to start the school year, before the funds were allocated.
While Stitt gave more than $30 million from the Education Relief Fund to public school families and schools, Priest said it's still not enough. “We are appreciative of the funds that will come to public schools, and it should’ve been more,” Priest said.
Butler tells 2 Works for You she wishes all school systems could work together during this tough time.
“As families consider all the different options, they should consider, just like they have to make a difficult decision for their families, so do the families of private school students. All of us are in this same boat together,“ Butler said. '
The $10 million Stitt is giving to private school families comes from the GEER fund, the Governor's Emergency Education Relief.
While it's only for private schools, some good news for public school families, they can still qualify to get some GEER fund money for the upcoming school year. Another $8 million of the GEER fund will go to grants for low income families to buy digital learning materials, like computers and online tutoring.
RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES:
For parents wanting to apply for the private school funds, click here.
For more information on the Oklahoma Education Association, click here.
To read the full details press release from the Governor's Office, click here.
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