The Cherokee Nation is helping dozens of northeast Oklahoma school districts fill gaps in education funding.
On Friday, checks totaling $3.4 million were distributed to 91 school districts at the Cherokee Nation’s Public School Appreciation Day, held at Sequoyah High School.
“We are proud to make this record investment to our area schools. Our car tag compact with the state of Oklahoma is important because funds are partially earmarked for education,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “As education budgets continue to be stretched thinner and thinner, the Cherokee Nation’s contributions to schools have only increased. We expect that trend to continue now that we’ve expanded our license plate service area to cover all of Tulsa, Muskogee and other areas. Our local schools are important partners to the Cherokee Nation, so this is a great way to help ensure their continued success.”
Each year the tribe allocates 38 percent of tax revenue from the sale of tribal car tags to help schools in the 14-county tribal jurisdiction. Schools have complete discretion over the funding, which is not earmarked for any specific purpose or student. Schools use the funds to pay for everything from additional teaching salaries, to advanced student coursework, to more classroom technology. Although the funds are allocated based on Cherokee student headcount, the money can be used to help any student or program administrators see fit.
“The money we receive from the motor vehicle tag program goes into a discretionary fund for us to use as needed to help our students and expand programs,” said Leroy Qualls, superintendent of Sequoyah Schools. “Our budget has gradually decreased over the last few years, so this program is greatly appreciated, and I hope it never goes away.”
This year’s donation is up from $3.2 million last year.
“We look to the motor vehicle tag money as a consistent funding source for Tahlequah schools every year,” said Lisa Presley, superintendent of Tahlequah Public Schools. “We dedicate the funds to supplies and salaries, so that we can maintain smaller, more effective classes for our students.”
The tribe has awarded $31.3 million to northeast Oklahoma schools since the Cherokee Nation entered into a license plate compact with the state in 2001. Next year’s contributions should see an increase, as car tags can now be purchased by Cherokee citizens countywide in Tulsa, Muskogee, Mayes, Rogers and Wagoner counties.
“The Cherokee Nation continues to make a positive impact in the classroom and on student learning,” said Cherokee Nation Tax Administrator Sharon Swepston. “We thank the Cherokee citizens for purchasing our tribal car tags, which makes these contributions to our school districts possible.”
The Cherokee Nation awarded funds to school districts in the following counties: Adair, $347,890; Cherokee, $678,629; Craig $118,844; Delaware, $293,735; Mayes, $325,607; Muskogee, $325,067; Nowata, $62,258; Ottawa, $69,416; Rogers, $379,762; Sequoyah, $342,218; Tulsa, $291,034; Wagoner, $73,062; Washington, $108,445; and Osage, $4,726.