House Democrats Concerned About Transparency With School Tax Credit Bill

The Oklahoma House sent a bill to the Senate on Wednesday that would offer a tax credit for parents of children in private schools. Some lawmakers are confused about the transparency of the bill.

Thursday, February 23rd 2023, 9:43 pm



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The Oklahoma House sent a bill to the Senate on Wednesday that would offer a tax credit for parents of children in private schools. Some lawmakers are confused about the transparency of the bill.

Democrats on the House Floor said they’re concerned about the oversight of this tax credit program. They said this is the taxpayer’s money and they don’t want people using the money for other things. 

“We talk a lot in this body about transparency – especially to the taxpayer,” said Rep. Andy Fugate (D). 

House Democrats in Oklahoma don’t want history to repeat itself.

“We could be looking at risking another ClassWallet situation,” said Rep. Forrest Bennett (D).

Neither do House Republicans. 

“We certainly do not want a situation such as what we had with ClassWallet,” said Rep. Rhonda Baker(R).

Oklahoma contracted with the vendor ClassWallet to get pandemic relief money to parents. However, people spent money on things that didn’t meet education needs due to a lack of government oversight and transparency.

“I am scared to death,” said Rep. Meloyde Blancett (D).

The House passed a bill Wednesday that would offer a $5,000 tax credit to parents with a kid in private school and $2,500 to parents who homeschool. 

Typically, a tax credit works as a reduction on a person’s tax bill. In this case, there are no limits on a person’s income.

Any parent with a social security number is eligible for this credit. If a family has four kids, they get $20,000. Democrats are worried about people who abuse the system. 

“A person who files fraudulently, or perhaps erroneously, can only be caught through an audit from the tax commission,” Fugate said on the house floor on Wednesday. 

Baker didn’t seem worried. 

“They [the Tax Commission] did not act in any way like this was gonna be any different than any other tax credit we would possibly pass,” Baker said. 

She said families have to show receipts for the purchases they make. General qualified expenses include things like tuition tutoring and school materials.  

“Is there anything in this language that would prohibit a parent from, let’s say outfitting a workshop, with $2,500 worth of woodworking equipment from Home Depot and claiming that in their tax credit in the name of homeschooling their kid in woodworking?” Fugate asked.

Oklahoma Tax Commission rules won’t come until the bill is signed into law. Which is why democrats say they don’t trust it. 

“We need to vote for this in order to figure out how it works,” Bennett said.

Now the bill is on to the Senate.

Baker said it would be the parents' responsibility to keep track of their expenses if this tax credit becomes law.

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