A measure aimed at addressing school funding equity for brick-and-mortar public and charter schools passed the Senate on Thursday.
Authored by Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, Senate Bill 229, also known as the Redbud School Funding Act, would tap into more than $30 million of medical marijuana tax revenue and the State Public Common School Building Equalization Fund to use the dollars as annual grants for more than 300 public school districts and brick-and-mortar charter schools that receive below average local tax revenue funding.
The measure came on the heels of the State Board of Education’s decision to grant charter schools local property tax revenues, which would shift millions of dollars of funding away from local school districts. If signed by the governor, the Redbud School Funding Act would reverse this decision.
“This funding act creates equity for our public schools and gives a much-needed revenue boost to many districts across the state,” Montgomery said. “We’ve expanded funding for our public schools over the past five years, but this measure will create a continual source of revenue for districts that have traditionally had little access to local ad valorem dollars to construct and maintain their buildings. Oklahoma is one of only four states that doesn’t have an equalization fund to balance our school building dollars. It’s far past time we put this into law to create an equitable funding source for our schools and their students.”
Sen. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole, is a co-author of the measure.
“The Redbud School Funding Act has critical implications for our rural school districts, injecting millions of dollars into our districts that need it the most,” Taylor said. “These grants can be used to improve school sites and equipment, including repairs and remodels, or to acquire new equipment or furniture. This measure will provide equity for our schools and end the pending lawsuits hanging over districts due to the State Board of Education’s decision to allow charter schools to receive local tax dollars.”
The measure unanimously passed the House in April and was authored by Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow.
“The Redbud School Funding Act protects the tax dollars that citizens contribute to their traditional local public schools by ensuring schools continue to receive these dollars,” Hilbert said. “It is a targeted investment of $38.5 million to help students in the lowest funded public schools in our state.”
The measure now heads back to the House for their final approval before heading to the governor’s desk.