Friday, September 9, 2011

Opportunity Scholarship Act gives students more and better choices

[Below is state Superintendent Janet Barresi's weekly newspaper column.]

Oklahoma started a journey recently towards giving parents more and better choices for where they send their children to school.

Senate Bill 969 -- the Opportunity Scholarship Act -- took effect just before the Labor Day holiday. Now, businesses and individuals making contributions to scholarship-granting organizations can receive a 50 percent state income tax credit. And families earning less than 300 percent of the requirement for the federal free and reduced lunch program or whose children attend under-performing schools can receive scholarships to move their child to a private school of their choice. Special needs children can access higher levels of funding.

A child’s education will no longer be decided by a parent’s income or a ZIP code.

The bill also benefits rural schools in Oklahoma. Those with plans for innovative education programs can apply for grants under the new legislation.

An important start to this process of school choice is being facilitated by the Oklahoma Tax Commission, which has posted application forms on its website for scholarship-granting organizations and educational improvement grant organizations. Now it's up to education-minded people to form these organizations and for parents and schools to apply to receive the scholarships and grants.

SB 969 (authored by state Sen. Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa) and state Rep. Lee Denney (R-Cushing) is a key plank in my 3R Agenda to rethink, restructure, and reform Oklahoma's education system.

I'm excited. Oklahoma students are a step closer to achieving their best.


christy said...

i have been reading and reading about this and, unfortunately, am still a bit confused. This form is only for businesses/ individuals who want to GRANT scholarships. Is there such a place where people actually APPLY for these scholarships???

Brandon Dutcher said...

Good question. It's still early. First some of these scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs) need to be created. Once they're up and running -- and hopefully there will be dozens of them -- then people can contact the various SGOs and start applying for scholarships. It will be up to each SGO to decide for itself who gets the scholarships.