In the current session of the state Legislature, Sen. James Williamson, a Tulsa Republican, is sponsoring a proposal called the New Hope Scholarship Act. The measure provides a tax credit for taxpayers who contribute to organizations that provide private-school scholarships for low-income children attending failing (the technical term is "needs improvement") schools in the state’s two largest cities. The fiscal impact of the tax credit would be $5 million, with a practical doubling effect (to $10 million) for students who would benefit.
In a March 13 state Senate debate on the bill, Sen. Jeff Rabon, the "Little Dixie" Democrat, said he would oppose the bill because "it strikes me as giving up." Sen. Jay Paul Gumm, a Durant Democrat, said he could not support Williamson’s proposal because of the "sacred mission" of public schools to educate every child. Gumm asserted support for the bill would "send up the white flag to abandon many for the benefit of a few."
But I’ll venture this modest bit of punditry: On March 13, 2008, the Oklahoma debate over school choice changed, forever. Defenders of the status quo will counterattack. They may even kill the Williamson-McIntyre bill (SB 2093) for this year, perhaps even by the time this essay is in print. We’ll see.
About the Author:
Patrick McGuigan (M.A. in history, Oklahoma State University) is an editor at The City Sentinel, a weekly newspaper in Oklahoma City. He is the author of two books and the editor of seven, including “Law, Economics & Civil Justice: A Reform Agenda” (1994) and “Crime & Punishment in Modern America” (1986). He is a regular contributor to Tulsa Today and a research fellow at OCPA. A state-certified teacher, for two years he taught middle-school and high-school students at a public charter alternative school.
This editorial was first published April 4, 2008, Perspective Magazine (Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs).