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School choice in Oklahoma

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School choice refers to the educational alternatives available to parents who do not wish to send their children to the local district public school to which they are assigned. Public school choice options include open enrollment policies, magnet schools and charter schools. Other options include traditional school vouchers, scholarship tax credits, personal tax credits and deductions and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), which allow parents to receive public funds directly for educational expenses.[1][2]

School choice options in Oklahoma include: charter schools, school vouchers, inter-district and intra-district open enrollment policies and online learning programs. In addition, about 4.79 percent of school age children in the state attended private schools in the 2011-12 academic year, and an estimated 2.67 percent were homeschooled in 2012-13.

Educational choice options

See also: Number of schools by school type in the U.S.

Charter schools

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, there are seven purposes for charter schools:[3]

  1. Improve student learning
  2. Increase learning opportunities for students
  3. Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods
  4. Provide additional academic choices for parents and students
  5. Require the measurement of student learning and create different and innovative forms of measuring student learning
  6. Establish new forms of accountability for schools
  7. Create new professional opportunities for teachers and administrators including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the school site[4]

According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, there were 24 charter schools operating in Oklahoma in the 2012-13 academic year. During that time, charter schools enrolled 11,756 students.[5][6]

Charter school authorizers are, according to the National Association of Charter School Authorizers (NACSA), the organizations "designated to approve, monitor, renew, and, if necessary, close charter schools." As of June 2014, the following organizations were listed by NACSA as charter school authorizers in Oklahoma:[7]

Oklahoma charter school authorizers
Organization Authorizer type Number of schools overseen
Cherokee Nation Other 1
Choctaw-Nicoma Park Public Schools Local education agency 1
Graham Public Schools Local education agency 1
Langston University Higher education agency 4
Oklahoma City Public Schools Local education agency 13
Tulsa Public Schools Higher education agency 1
University of Oklahoma Local education agency 1
Note: If the total number of charter schools accounted for in this table differs from the total number listed elsewhere on this page, the discrepancy owes to differing calculation methods and data sources.
Source: National Association of Charter School Authorizers, "Oklahoma Charter Authorizers," accessed June 18, 2014

School vouchers and tax credits

There are two school voucher/school choice tax incentive programs in Oklahoma:

  • Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships: Under this program, tax credits may be provided for donations to Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs), "nonprofits that must spend a portion of their expenditures on private school scholarships for low-income students in an amount equal to or greater than the percentage of low-income students in the state." The credit is capped at $1,000 per year for individuals, $2,000 for married couples, and $100,000 for corporations. The total amount of credits statewide is capped at $3.5 million. Students are eligible for scholarships funded by this tax incentive program if they come from households whose income is no more than 300 percent of the free and reduced price lunch program ($130,704 for a family of four in 2013-14) or live in the attendance zone of a school designated as being "in need of improvement." For a student without an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), a scholarship cannot exceed $5,000 or 80 percent of the average per-pupil expenditure in the student's home district. For a student with an IEP, the scholarship cannot exceed $25,000.[8]
  • Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities: Under this program, students with special needs who are currently enrolled in public schools may be eligible for vouchers to attend private schools. Vouchers are worth the state and local dollars spent on the student in his or her school or the private school's tuition and fees, whichever is less. Any student with an Individualized Education Plan in effect who was either enrolled in a state public school for the prior year or is the child of active-duty member of the armed forces stationed in the state may be eligible for a voucher. There are no income limits under this program.[9]

Online learning

According to Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning, there were four fully virtual statewide schools in the 2012-13 academic year, as well as two statewide supplemental online learning programs and several district-level programs. During that time, 10,585 students took online courses via 17 full-time and supplemental program providers.[10]

Private schools

In the 2011-12 school year, 31,914 students, or 4.79 percent of school age children, were enrolled in 165 private schools. Oklahoma ranks 45th highest in the nation in private school attendance.[11]

Public school open enrollment

According to the Education Commission of the States, there are two open enrollment policies in Oklahoma:[12]

  • Intra-district/mandatory policy, which "allows students in low-performing schools, as designated by the state, to attend a different school within their district"
  • Inter-district/mandatory policy, which "allows students to transfer to schools in other districts with the approval of the receiving district"

Intra-district policies provide for the transfer of students within a school district, while inter-district policies allow students to transfer between districts. Under mandatory open enrollment policies, school districts are required to participate. Under voluntary policies, school districts may choose whether to participate.[12]


In Oklahoma in 2012-2013 an estimated 18,017 students, or 2.67 percent of the total student-aged population, were homeschooled.[13]

A summary of the state's laws relating to homeschooling can be accessed here.

Studies and reports

Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice

In 2014, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice published a description of and commentary on school choice options in the United States. Regarding the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships, the foundation said, "Oklahoma’s tax-credit scholarship program could be one of the most generous in the nation because of the high income limit for eligibility and per-student funding. In practice, however, the $3.5 million cap on credits severely restricts the number and amount of scholarships that can be awarded. If all scholarships awarded were $5,000, only 700 students could participate. Additionally, the pro-rata distribution of tax credits to donors makes administration very difficult for SGOs, as they cannot notify donors of the credit they will receive until the state tax commission receives all credits claimed for the year. Donors are also only allowed a 50 percent tax credit for donations. The program has a reasonable level of school regulations: Participating schools must provide progress reports to parents, be accredited, follow health and safety codes, and obey nondiscrimination laws. The program has a tremendous opportunity to be one of the nation’s strongest, if the eligibility and overall funding cap are raised or removed entirely and the pro-rata method for distributing tax credits is removed."[14]

The full report can be accessed here.

School choice ballot measures

See also: School choice on the ballot and List of Oklahoma ballot measures

Ballotpedia staff have tracked no statewide ballot measures relating to school choice in Oklahoma.

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term "Oklahoma + Education + Choice"

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

Oklahoma School Choice News Feed

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See also


  1. National Conference of State Legislatures, "School Choice and Charters," accessed June 18, 2014
  2. Friedman Foundation for School Choice, "What is School Choice?" accessed June 18, 2014
  3. Oklahoma State Department of Education, "Oklahoma Charter Schools Program," accessed June 23, 2014
  4. Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  5. National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, "Total Number of Schools - Oklahoma," accessed June 23, 2014
  6. National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, "Total Number of Students - Oklahoma," accessed June 23, 2014
  7. National Association of Charter School Authorizers, "Oklahoma Charter Authorizers," accessed June 18, 2014]
  8. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, "Oklahoma - Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarships," accessed June 23, 2014
  9. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, "Oklahoma - Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities," accessed June 23, 2014
  10. Keeping Pace with K-12 Online and Blended Learning, "Oklahoma," accessed June 23, 2014
  11. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), "Private School Universe Survey (PSS)", 2011-12 ; "Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey, v.1a.," accessed May 12, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 Education Commission of the States, "Open Enrollment: 50-State Report," accessed June 23, 2014
  13. A2Z Home's Cool, "Number of Homeschoolers in the USA," updated February 2, 2014
  14. The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, "The ABCs of School Choice - 2014 Edition," accessed June 18, 2014