For the Children Tax credit proposals for private and home schooled students slow legislative session to a crawl
OKLAHOMA CITY – The business with most policy work at the Oklahoma State Capitol slowed over negotiations about education tax credits for families with children in private schools, along with discussions over teacher pay raises and other public school funding.
Public schools are having trouble finding teachers, so solutions for that have been tied with how much of a tax credit would be given to families for children in private schools or who are homeschooled.
Most of the sometimes-heated negotiations among the House of Representatives, Senate and governor are over a voucher-style tax credit for families with children in private schools or for homeschooling. Public school funding also is on the table, with conversations revolving around spending per zip code and differential between rural versus urban districts.
The original House of Representatives plan would have created the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit Act, which would allow a $5,000 annual tax credit for parents of eligible students attending private schools and a $2,500 credit for homeschooled students.
The most recent proposal would establish a tiered system of tax credits for parents or guardians who send their children to accredited private schools. For tax year 2024, credits for private school expenses are capped at $150 million, and increase by $50 million per year until it reaches $250 million per year in total cost to the state treasury.
The tax credit tiers are based on households’ total adjusted gross income during the second preceding tax year. The credits are distributed per student, per year. If the tuition and fees are less than the maximum tax credit amount, the credit shall be limited to the cost of tuition and fees. The tax credit tiers range from $7,500 for private school families with income less than $75,000 to $5,000 for families earning more than a quarter million dollars a year.
It is important to note this is not a tax deduction from taxable income; it is a direct credit against the total tax bill that would go to only those families with children in private schools. Any family with a child in private school would be eligible to apply for the credit.
Additionally, the measure would establish a $1,000 per student income tax credit for qualified expenses related to home schooling. A taxpayer claiming this credit would have to submit receipts for qualified expenses to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. When it becomes active, the total tax credits for homeschooling expenses would be capped at $5 million per year.
From data provided by the Education Data Initiative, Oklahoma has the ninth most affordable private schools in the country. The state’s private tuition costs less than half of the national average, with an annual average tuition of $6,611 among all K-12 private schools in Oklahoma.
Data provided by Private School Review indicates there are 220 private school sites serving 38,552 students in Oklahoma this school year. To compare, there are 1,791 public school sites, serving 694,253 students. Based on these numbers, only 5 percent of Oklahoma K-12 students are educated in private schools. Families with children in public schools would not be eligible for either credit.
It is inevitable that passage of this plan would lead to an increase in private school options across the state. As public school funding is determined by per pupil spending as allocated by the Legislature, additional conversations will likely happen regarding factors such as school feeding programs, extra-curricular activities/competitions, and special needs student supports remaining in public schools.
It is not too late to contact your lawmakers or the governor with your thoughts on this issue.