TULSA, Okla. — Governor Kevin Stitt is set to sign a bill that will give more funding to public charter schools and traditional public school districts, primarily those with low funding.
SB229, known as the Redbud School Funding Act, will provide $38.5 million to brick-and-mortar charter schools and more than 300 traditional school districts. The money will come from medical marijuana taxes. It will be used to maintain and build school buildings.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister calls the bill a victory for Oklahoma students.
“Districts haven’t had a reliable dedicated funding stream to be able to plan for a leaky roof, a replacement of crumbling infrastructure," Hofmeister said.
One of the charter schools that will benefit is Tulsa Honor Academy. It recently held a capital campaign and took out a loan to buy a new building. Money it could have spent on students.
“Some of the instructional dollars that we’ve allocated toward the facility now get to be reallocated toward instruction," said Elsie Urueta Pollock, founder and executive director of Tulsa Honor Academy. "So we’ll be able to either purchase more books or even hire more teachers.”
This debate over money for public charter schools goes back to 2017, when the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association filed a lawsuit to access more funding. In March, the state board of education voted to equalize funding between public charter schools and traditional public schools, which led to an uproar from traditional school districts. About 200 filed lawsuits against the state board.
Now with the Redbud Funding Act, the state board rescinded its vote and charter schools still get more money.
“We didn’t like a solution where we would take funds from traditional public schools," Urueta Pollock said. "We don’t want that. We want all schools to get, not just equitable funding, but fair and proper funding.”
Urueta Pollock said this bill will not only help charter schools, but also traditional public schools that lack funding like rural schools. She also said it will give students more opportunities.
“At the end of the day, that’s what education is all about," Urueta Pollock said. "It’s about opening doors and providing opportunities for scholars and that’s exactly what these funds will do.”
The state board of education rescinded its vote on the condition this bill would be signed into law and the 2017 lawsuit would be dropped. Both are expected to happen this week.
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