Private Scholarship Bills Fail By Razor Thin Margins

Oklahoma’s Opportunity Scholarship Fund was dealt a disappointing defeat this week in both chambers of the state legislature. House Bill 3537 and Senate Bill 1384 proposed to raise the cap on private donations to the fund that qualify for state tax credits from the current $5 million limit.

Both measures would also have added an automatic trigger to the program which would allow the cap to increase after a percentage of the cap was exceeded, thereby preventing the need to propose new legislation every year to increase that cap. The bills failed by a combined four votes in both chambers.

OSF and other scholarship-granting organizations provide critical scholarship funds to economically disadvantaged and special-needs children who are being under-served in their local schools. Among those participating organizations is the Catholic Foundation of Oklahoma.

These organizations have helped provide better educational opportunities to thousands of children otherwise stuck in failing or inadequately equipped schools. An increased cap proposed to add thousands more to that roster of success.

Unfortunately, the public education lobby in Oklahoma remains one of the most powerful influences in state politics and continues to strongly oppose these measures on the auspices that tax credits for private scholarships deprive public schools of much-needed public revenue. However, supporters argue convincingly — with third-party studies to validate — that these scholarship programs actually net public schools money by offsetting the lost state revenue via funds saved from one less student in the system.

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