The stream of negative news about the state of education in Oklahoma can be disheartening. Between teacher shortages, high administrative costs and low per-pupil spending, it often seems impossible to right the ship.
And now, families are grappling with skyrocketing inflation just as the 2022-2023 school year is set to begin. American households expect to spend a whopping $ 700 on school supplies this year, up from roughly $ 360 in 2021. Obviously, this simply isn’t feasible for many Oklahoma families.
But luckily, there’s a way for concerned education supporters to support public and private school students through the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Act. The program allows individuals and businesses to receive Oklahoma state income tax credits when they donate either to an Education Improvement Grant Organization (EIGO) and / or a Scholarship Granting Organization (SGO) recognized by the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
By donating to an EIGO, you’re helping purchase needed resources and fund innovative equipment in public schools, such as a- 3D printer for STEM curriculum. And when you support SGOs, you’re providing scholarships to low-income students to attend a private school best suited for their unique needs.
While most Oklahoma students flourish in public schools, some require specific environments to better support their social, emotional, physical and educational growth.
A single mother of four should be able to put her autistic son in school where he’ll thrive, despite her limited means.
A family should be able to easily transfer their daughter to a different school to protect her from bullies.
A homeless student should be able to attend a school that addresses his unique needs, like providing clean clothes and health check-ups.
SGOs help bridge the financial gap for families like this in desperate circumstances. One such SGO, the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, even has a “Kids in Crisis” fund set up, where donors can help provide scholarships for students in dire situations who need to immediately switch learning environments.
Supporting EIGOs and SGOs is a win-win. Donors receive major tax credits and deductions, which offsets their Oklahoma income taxes. Oklahoma kids of all ages and backgrounds benefit, no matter if they attend public or private school.
Together, we can fulfill an immediate need for children in our state. Rather than collectively throwing our hands up in exasperation at Oklahoma’s education system, we can each chip in to help students access innovative programs and schools – which very well may change the course of their lives.
Sarah Guardiola is the CEO of the Opportunity Scholarship Fund (OSF).