Education, Good Government

Oklahoma school-choice law hailed as national model

November 14, 2023

Ray Carter

Oklahoma policymakers’ decision to provide tax credits to Oklahoma families to pay for private-school tuition is being hailed as a model for states around the country by a national organization.

A new report by “yes. every kid.”—an organization that focuses on education and parental empowerment—declares that programs like Oklahoma’s school-choice tax credit “may be the future of education freedom policy.”

“Each child’s learning needs are unique, and a personal education tax credit can significantly enhance a family’s ability to find the educational option that best fits their child’s specific needs,” the report states. “This policy provides a direct, flexible, and efficient channel for funding. Additionally, it offers a robust legal footing by overcoming legal challenges commonly directed at policies that seek to empower families.”

Under the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act, created through passage of House Bill 1934 this year, all families in Oklahoma are eligible for refundable tax credits of $5,000 to $7,500 per child to pay for private-school tuition. Under the program, those with the lowest incomes are given the largest tax credits. Because the tax credits are refundable, even if a family’s tax obligation is less than the size of the school-choice tax credit, the family still receives the full benefit of the entire credit.

The amount of tax credits issued is capped at $150 million but will increase to $200 million in 2025 and then $250 million in 2026. Under the law, lower-income families are given priority if the program hits the cap in any year.

The program takes effect in January and Oklahoma families can apply for the tax credit with the Oklahoma Tax Commission starting Dec. 1.

The “yes. every kid.” report said Oklahoma’s program offers several advantages over other types of school-choice measures, such as pure vouchers or education savings accounts, including financial stability.

“In contrast to other programs that depend on potentially uncertain legislative appropriations or state education funding systems, this program can leverage pre-existing tax mechanisms for its funding,” the report notes. “While personal tax credits have typically been financed by deducting from a taxpayer’s income taxes, tax credits can and have been developed from other revenue sources like sales tax and property tax. This unique financing structure sets it apart from other programs.”

The report also notes that tax-credit programs are more difficult for school-choice opponents to derail with lawsuits.

“Other programs that fund families often face legal challenges from critics who argue that public funds should not be allocated to families seeking alternative educational options,” the report states. “However, personal tax credit programs overcome these legal hurdles by not sourcing funding directly from the education budget. As a result, these programs are less vulnerable to additional regulations and legal disputes, ensuring a more stable and sustainable means of financial support for families.”

According to a recent poll by the “yes. every kid.” foundation and YouGov, two-thirds of Americans—including 80 percent of K-12 parents—support education tax credits like those enacted in Oklahoma.