School Choice Bill Delayed in Senate Committee

Mar 1, 2017

Oklahoma Senator Rob Standridge (R-Norman) chose not to push forward with a controversial school choice bill on Wednesday.

Standridge told committee members that he wanted to lay his Education Savings Account bill over until next year. But says he'll keep discussing and working on the issue in the mean time.

Education Savings Accounts—or school vouchers— are controversial because they allow parents to use state tax dollars towards private school tuition if they feel their child's needs aren’t being met in the public school.

Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist was present for the meeting, and says she is glad the bill is dead for now.

"This bill would have resulted in many millions of dollars of cuts to education. 2 million dollars in cuts to Tulsa Public Schools in the first year."

Gist says lawmakers need to be focused on increasing funding for education, not taking money away from it.

Original Post (February 20, 2017):

A Senate education committee passed a school choice measure on Monday, which riled a lot of debate from lawmakers.

Education Savings Accounts are a touchy subject. They allow parents to use state tax dollars, that would normally go to a public school, towards private school tuition instead.

Senator Rob Standridge says his ESA bill, SB560, is aimed at helping low-income families afford a better educational option for their child.

However, opponents like Senator Ron Sharp, worry ESAs will strip public schools of much-needed funding.

"I understand your purpose, but all you are doing is taking funds away from public education, and you are diverting them toward private use."

The bill passed 9 to 7 after almost an hour of debate, in which lawmakers requested a lot of changes.

Those changes must be complete before the bill can move to the full Senate floor.