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Oklahoma receives 30,000 submissions for private school tax credits

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Oklahoma receives 30,000 submissions for private school tax credits

Dec 08, 2023 | 12:57 pm ET
By Nuria Martinez-Keel
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Oklahoma receives 30,000 submissions for private school tax credits
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Gov. Kevin Stitt praised a new tax credit program as a way to enable lower-earning families to send their children to private schools. Legislative Democrats say they fear the tax credits will only benefit the wealthy. (Photo by Kyle Phillips/For Oklahoma Voice)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Tens of thousands of Oklahoma families applied for private school tax credits within minutes of the program’s launch, potentially consuming the entire $150 million budget after an hour and a half.

The state received more than 30,000 submissions for the new parental choice tax credits within the first 90 minutes of the application window on Wednesday, according to a news release from Gov. Kevin Stitt.

“It is amazing to see the demand for this program, and I hope the legislature will consider ways to allow more families to apply for this tax credit in the future,” Stitt said in a statement Thursday night.

About 32,000 students attend private schools in Oklahoma. More than 150 private schools had registered with the program by Wednesday afternoon so their students could be eligible to apply.

The refundable tax credits offer $5,000 to $7,500 per student to offset the cost of private school tuition and other educational expenses. The amount a family could receive depends on household earnings, and though there’s no maximum income limit, lower-earning families get a larger tax credit.

Little, if any, of the program’s $150 million budget would be left over if all 30,000 applicants qualify for even the lowest tax credit amount possible.

The total budget will rise to $200 million in 2025 and $250 million in 2026.

Families with a household income of $150,000 or less have priority consideration if they apply before Feb. 5. Outside of the priority group, the tax credits are available on a first-come-first-served basis, incentivizing applicants to submit their forms as quickly as possible.

The Oklahoma Tax Commission declined to provide Oklahoma Voice with any metrics this week on the total number of applications received and how many submissions came from the priority group.

The Tax Commission will use its internal records to check applicants’ household income. The agency contracted with a company, Merit International, to assist with verifying school enrollment documents, expense records and vendor applications while also managing the program’s online platform.

Stitt, a self-made millionaire, initially said his family would apply for the tax credits but later reversed course. Critics of the program, especially Democrats in the state legislature, said Stitt’s comments illustrated their original fears that the tax credits would help only wealthy families whose children already attend private schools.

The governor called the program a “step towards true education freedom.”

“School choice should be for everyone, not just the rich,” he said.