One of the biggest lingering questions about State Sen. Greg Treat’s Senate Bill 1647, which proposes to use state funds on private school tuition and other educational expenses, is what would it cost?

I’ve been trying to answer that and other questions for an upcoming Oklahoma Watch article. Answering the cost question is difficult. But there are some new projections I’ll share here.

The bill was approved Wednesday by the Senate appropriations committee and is eligible to be heard by the full Senate.

There’s been a major change to the proposal. An income cap was added, limiting the program to families that earn up to 300% of the federal poverty line. That’s about $154,000 year for a family of four and mirrors the cap on another state program to fund private school tuition, the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships program.

Each voucher, as outlined in the bill, would be worth about $3,600 to $5,300.

The state Education Department estimates this will cost the state between $118.5 million and $161.8 million. That’s assuming 19,945 students participate, which is 2.63% of the total student population, including public, private and homeschool students.

Treat, in the committee hearing Wednesday, assured everyone the plan would not have a negative impact on public school funding. “I want you to hear me loud and clear: we will not pursue final passage on this bill if we cannot find the money to offset the cost in the state aid formula, not just for this fiscal year but on an ongoing basis,” he said.

I welcome your thoughts via email or DM.

— Jennifer Palmer

Podcast

Long Story Short: On State Question Reform, Government Secrecy and School Vouchers

Trevor Brown on proposed changes to the state question process, Paul Monies on keeping bids for $1.87 billion in federal funds a secret, Jennifer Palmer on a school voucher bill gaining momentum. [Listen]

Recommended Reading

  • A bill to force librarians to remove books from school libraries, authored by State Sen. Rob Standridge, R-Norman, advanced out of committee this week. The proposal levies penalties of $10,000 per day on school districts that don’t remove books following a parent complaint. [The Oklahoman]
  • One in 4 U.S. school children missed more than a week of in-person learning in January at the height of the omicron wave. Five days of in-person school a week used to be virtually guaranteed. Some parents are wondering if they’ll ever get that level of certainty again. [The New York Times]
  • In several deep red states, Republicans are blocking efforts to redirect public education dollars to pay for private school tuition. [Forbes]

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