April 23, 2021
By News Director Jared Atha
A bill that seeks to correct funding disparities for brick-and-mortar public schools in low property value areas while addressing charter school funding passed the House on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 229, co-authored by Rep. Anthony Moore, R-Clinton, creates the Redbud School Funding Act, which proposes using medical marijuana taxes and the Common School Building Equalization Fund to provide annual per-student funding grants to eligible school districts and charter schools.
The bill came after the State Board of Education’s recent settlement with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association would have granted charter schools access to local property tax dollars that at present, only traditional public schools have the ability to access. If unchanged, the decision would shift tens of millions of local property tax dollars away from traditional public schools and into public charter schools. The decision was made in part because charter schools receive $330 less per student in non-chargeable local revenue because they do not have access to these dollars. Charter schools also cannot pass bonds. To correct this disparity, the Redbud School Funding Act would use medical marijuana taxes and the Common School Building Equalization Fund to meet the needs of brick-and-mortar charter school building needs.
It was also discovered, though, that students in 334 traditional Oklahoma school districts receive below average funding for their education from annual local tax revenue. This measure would allow the State Department of Education to use grants to equalize funding for those districts as well as the charter schools.
The bill’s authors worked with Oklahoma Education Secretary Ryan Walters, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, the State Department of Education, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and the Charter School Association to create the language of the bill.