“You are your child’s first teacher.” I’m sure you have heard those words more than once. Your children have depended on you from the first moment you held them in your arms. They look to you for food, shelter, safety, nurturing and education. Everything you have done up to this point has taught them something.
Education is at the forefront of Oklahomans’ minds even more than usual these days. But what can you do about it? Schooling options have changed significantly over the last decade, giving parents more input in decision-making and giving them a choice.
“We believe every child deserves the chance to learn in the best school available, based on that child’s needs,” said Rob Sellers, executive director of the Opportunity Scholarship Fund. OSF is a scholarship granting organization that provides financial support to lower-income Oklahoma K-12 students to attend accredited private schools in our state. “Choice is so important, particularly for low- and middle-income families. It is about finding the place where every student learns the best.”
Michelle S. had a son in high school who was running with the wrong crowd. He became addicted to drugs and alcohol. Once he was sober, it was important to find him a different environment. With financial support from the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, Michelle was able to enroll him in Mission Academy, a recovery-based learning environment. Her son was able to continue on his new path and now feels like he has a purpose in life. Had he gone back to his previous school, he could very easily have fallen into old habits and found himself in trouble again.
“The Opportunity Scholarship Fund allowed my son to have an opportunity to complete his high school education in an encouraging and supportive environment. If it wasn’t for the scholarship, he may not have had that opportunity. He graduated from Mission Academy this past May and is looking forward to his future,” Michelle S. said.
The Opportunity Scholarship Fund program provides scholarships for private schools and other special needs schools across the state. These schools work with such students who have needs ranging from autism and Down syndrome to homelessness, addiction and more.
“This is not a public-versus-private-schools type of issue. All kids have different problems and every child learns differently,” Sellers said. “This is about providing parents with the choice to provide an affordable education that is the best fit for their child.”
If your child is a student and legal resident who demonstrates financial need or a special learning need or difference, they may be eligible for a scholarship.
“They can’t do one-size-fits-all through public school,” said Sellers. “The Opportunity Scholarship Fund provides options and opportunities for families where we can bridge the financial gap.”
So, is your child getting the right education? Ask yourself these questions:
- Are my child’s needs being met?
- Is this the best environment and culture for my child?
- If I had a choice, would I choose this school for my child?
If you answered no to any of these questions, the Opportunity Scholarship Fund may be able to help your family.
The program provides a state income tax credit for qualifying donations of 50 percent for one-time donations and 75 percent for donors who pledge the same amount for two consecutive years. Tax credits are capped at $100,000 for qualified business entities, $2,000 for taxpayers filing a joint tax return and $1,000 for individual tax filers.
If you think programs such as OSF cost the state money, think again. Two economists from Oklahoma City University conducted a financial impact study looking at Oklahoma’s scholarship granting organizations. The study revealed for every $1 of tax credit issued to scholarship donors, Oklahoma’s budget saved $1.24. Don’t let this assumption hold you back from helping your child receive the best education! Tax-credit scholarships save Oklahoma money.
What do you do now? Check out all of the requirements here. Look through the list of member schools and visit them to see if that school will best meet your child’s educational needs. The member school will take it from there.
Here are the steps:
- Step 1: Check school eligibility (Before applying for financial assistance, a student must be accepted at a qualifying member school, and that school must be a participant in the program and you can find a list at http://osfkids.org/list-of-schools).
- Step 2: Determine the family’s eligibility for financial assistance, by completing a financial assistance application at the member school where you have been accepted.
- Step 3: Complete application and submit to school
For more information on school choice and the Opportunity Scholarship Fund, visit osfkids.org.