School-choice rollout delayed
Ray Carter | December 1, 2023
Applications for Oklahoma’s new school-choice program, which makes refundable tax credits of $5,000 to $7,500 per child available to all families to help pay for private school, were supposed to be accepted by the Oklahoma Tax Commission starting the morning of Friday, Dec. 1.
But that event, which effectively launches a new era of school-choice opportunity in Oklahoma, has been delayed due to technical challenges.
In a release issued late on Nov. 30, Oklahoma Tax Commission officials stated, “We have experienced some obstacles in ensuring a seamless rollout of the Parental Choice Tax Credit program. Due to the popularity of the program, it is imperative that everyone be given the opportunity to have the best possible experience on the day the Taxpayer application opens. Although the majority of parents have received their Enrollment Verification Forms, and are ready to apply, we do have parents who have not received their form as of close of business Thursday, November 30. We continue to work diligently to resolve all unanticipated complications and will continue to do so.”
To resolve those issues, the start of the application process has been shifted from Dec. 1 to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6.
House Bill 1934, passed by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Kevin Stitt at a May 25 ceremony, created the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act. The new law provides refundable tax credits of $5,000 to $7,500 per child to cover the cost of private school tuition starting in January 2024.
Families earning up to $75,000 can receive a $7,500 per-child refundable tax credit per school year with the credit provided in two semester installments.
Those earning $75,001 to $150,000 get a credit of $7,000 per child.
Those earning $150,001 to $225,000 qualify for a $6,500 credit, those earning $225,001 to $250,000 can receive a $6,000 credit, and those earning $250,001 and up qualify for a credit of $5,000 per child.
Families who choose to homeschool qualify for a tax credit equal to $1,000 per child under the program.
In 2024, the program is capped at $150 million in tax credits. In 2025, the cap will increase to $200 million and in 2026 the cap rises to $250 million.
Should the number of families qualifying for the credit exceed the $150 million provided, the program prioritizes families earning no more than $150,000. To receive priority consideration, families must now apply on or before Monday, Feb. 5, 2024.
Those who apply for the program must have an Enrollment Verification Form to show their child or children will be attending a private school. However, those forms could not be generated for all students through the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s system prior to the planned Dec. 1 application process.
“The decision to delay the application start date was not made lightly,” the Oklahoma Tax Commission release stated. “Despite being disappointed with the delay, we believe this adjustment is necessary to establish a ‘fair playing field’ for all Taxpayers, since having the Enrollment Verification Form is a required part of the application process. This is critical, given the fact the OTC may only authorize $150 million of tax credits for tax year 2024. We do not anticipate that postponement of the application start date will delay disbursement of the first installment payments.
The release then stated, “We sincerely apologize to those who have been impacted by this unforeseen delay. Since beginning this implementation, our goal has been to simplify the experience for both taxpayers and schools. Although delaying the application start date does not meet our goal in the short term, we firmly believe it will ensure a fair and transparent experience for all.”
Director, Center for Independent Journalism
Ray Carter is the director of OCPA’s Center for Independent Journalism. He has two decades of experience in journalism and communications. He previously served as senior Capitol reporter for The Journal Record, media director for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and chief editorial writer at The Oklahoman. As a reporter for The Journal Record, Carter received 12 Carl Rogan Awards in four years—including awards for investigative reporting, general news reporting, feature writing, spot news reporting, business reporting, and sports reporting. While at The Oklahoman, he was the recipient of several awards, including first place in the editorial writing category of the Associated Press/Oklahoma News Executives Carl Rogan Memorial News Excellence Competition for an editorial on the history of racism in the Oklahoma legislature.