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Cherokee Nation Chief Hopes $4.7M Donation Helps Struggling Schools

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The Cherokee Nation is donating a record amount of money from its license plate revenue program to help schools in its jurisdiction. The Cherokee Nation is donating a record amount of money from its license plate revenue program to help schools in its jurisdiction.
"I pray for them every day. That they will find a way to help our kids," Chief Baker said. "I pray for them every day. That they will find a way to help our kids," Chief Baker said.
CHEROKEE COUNTY, Oklahoma -

Oklahoma is facing more than a billion-dollar budget shortfall, and lawmakers will soon be forced to come up with more cuts.

There are guesstimates of another $47 million cut to education after the state's equalization board meets next week.

On the other hand, the Cherokee Nation is donating a record amount of money from its license plate revenue program to help schools in its jurisdiction; $4.7 million went to schools within the tribe's 14-county area.

2/12/2016 Related Story: Cherokee Nation To Award $4.7M To 106 Oklahoma School Districts

One school district planned to use the money donated at Friday's event to help them buy copy paper.

School districts in northeast Oklahoma are scraping by, even knowing more cuts are on the horizon, as the state faces a $1.3 billion shortfall.

Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker said the state is facing an "education crisis," and hopes Friday's $4.7 million donation to schools helps.

"With the state funding dwindling, and our funding going up, I wish it were more. But we're at least heading in the right direction to help fund these schools with dollars that are not earmarked that they can use where their school district desperately needs it," he said.

The monies can go towards teacher salaries, school supplies and even diesel fuel.

Tahlequah Superintendent Lisa Presley hoped to use the money for a technology program, but now it will be used to help keep their budget sound for next school year.

"Days like today are great days for us because it helps us with, for instance, I just told you we've been cut over $200,000, and this helps alleviate that pain," she said.

The chief wants lawmakers to stop cutting from education when it sees a shortfall.

"I pray for them every day. That they will find a way to help our kids," he said.

Baker said if we don't invest in our children and schools, Oklahoma won't be competitive with other neighboring states.

"It's all part of raising the economy, raising the education level, raising northeastern Oklahoma for us," Baker said.

The Cherokee Nation also opposes another bill lawmakers have filed that would consolidate school districts in Oklahoma.

The state equalization board is expected to meet next Tuesday.

Experts say schools could see cuts this year and next school year.

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