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ONLY ON FOX23: Stitt explains why E.S.A. plan currently doesn’t fully cover private school tuition

By Rick Maranon,


Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) explained to FOX23 during a one-on-one interview why his proposal before the legislature to give families money towards school choice but may not pick up all of the tab for private school options.

Currently, Stitt and Education Secretary-State Superintendent Ryan Walters (R) are asking state lawmakers to approve Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) that range in total of $5,000-$8,000+ per student per year. An ESA is an account that the state sets up for families to access the money they pay in taxes to the state currently going towards public education and allows families with restrictions to withdrawal that amount and use it towards, homeschool, charter, and private education expenses such as tuition.

“We need the funding to follow the student,” Stitt said about ESAs. “We must fund students not systems.”

FOX23 asked the governor about how his ESA amounts could ever help a family get into some of the best-known private schools in the Tulsa-metro area that charge $11,000-$16,000+ per school year, such as, Bishop Kelly, Cascia Hall, and Holland Hall.

Stitt said he isn’t trying to get all kids into the ivy league of private PreK-12 schools who have likely already hit their limit in enrollment and have long waiting lists.

“This isn’t for the Cassidys, and those schools who’ve already got their funding and already got their students,” Stitt said referencing the Oklahoma City equivalent of Cascia Hall and Holland Hall. “They’re probably over their limit. They’re not going to take another hundred kids. This is for the brand new school in south Oklahoma City that’s going to pop up or the aviation school that will pop up in north Tulsa next to American Airlines because they have access now to set to set up a new school.”

Oklahoma Gov. Stitt gives annual State of the State address

Stitt said there are many charter and smaller private schools who have tuition amounts that would be covered by an ESA, and other charter schools have stated if they can get more funding through a program like an ESA, they are willing to expand their capacity for more students.

But opponents of Stitt’s ESA plan said the difference between the ESA amount and what current private schools are charging for tuition shows it is merely a new program for the rich to save money on their education expenses.

“An ESA is another word for vouchers. We know this will only help rich families reduce the cost of their kid’s private education,” State Rep. Melissa Provenzano (D-Tulsa) said. “We’ve seen this before in other places. It will only come at a cost to the public schools and poorer families who depend on them.”

Provenzano and her House Democratic colleagues said Stitt was opening up the state’s education dollars to the possibility of more fraud because it transfers public dollars back into private hands, and the governor has also proposed no accountability standards that will come with the use of ESAs.

“If you think scandals like what happened with ClassWallet and our ed. dollars were bad, we’re only just beginning with ESAs,” she said. “We have private companies pushing for this who see this as an easy money grab, and they’re already lining up wanting some of that cash.”

In previous legislative sessions, the State Senate has gone along with private school vouchers sometimes also called state-funded scholarships, but the efforts had either been delayed, altered, or stopped altogether in the Oklahoma House of Representatives where bipartisan concerns about rural schools losing money has allowed for the partnering with those opposed to vouchers to come together in a unified front that is enough to kill a bill.

Stitt said there are scenarios in which a family could choose to use an ESA to cover most of the costs of their child’s tuition, and then they pick up the rest of the tab out of pocket. But he said at least that family had the ability and fewer hurdles towards finding a place they felt was best appropriate and met their child’s needs.

“They’re going to be more responsive to the workforce needs that they have versus maybe the zip code school that hasn’t been that responsive yet, but then I believe competition will come into play and everybody gets better. All boats are going to rise,” Stitt said about private and charter schools ready to receive more students.

Current 2023 Tuition Costs At Tulsa-metro Private Schools, according to their websites:

  • Cascia Hall - $16,800
  • Holland Hall - $16,475+
  • Bishop Kelly - $11,000
  • Monte Cassino - $12,000
  • Metro Christian (Grades 6-12) - $11,000+
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