As the son and grandson of lifelong educators, I know how important investing in public education is. It’s critical for young Cherokee students so they can grow into everything God intended them to be. It’s also important for all of northeast Oklahoma to continue developing a diverse economy with an educated workforce.
Expanding the sale of Cherokee Nation license plates to Cherokee Nation citizens statewide has created a lifeline for public education in northeast Oklahoma. As the state allocates fewer dollars to education, the Cherokee Nation is poised to once again make a record-breaking contribution to area schools. This year we gave $4.7 million to public education through our car tag program, which puts us over the $40 million investment mark since 2002.
When our tribal citizens across Oklahoma purchase a Cherokee Nation tag for their car, truck boat or recreational vehicle, we earmark 38 percent of each of those dollars and invest it back into classrooms. That’s something every one of our tribal citizen can take great pride in. We are investing in our children, investing in our communities and investing in our future as Cherokees and as Oklahomans.
The partnerships we have carefully cultivated with area school districts are some of our most important, because together we are creating a positive and long-lasting effect in northeast Oklahoma.
School districts have complete spending discretion with these funds. The funding will enable schools to execute their strategic plans. At Okay Public Schools in Wagoner County, the financial award will be utilized for much needed technology upgrades, like iPads and laptops, which will enable more advanced learning opportunities. In Nowata, Muskogee and Bartlesville, the funding will help pay teacher salaries, while at Adair Public Schools that money will be used this year in the school’s general fund to offset its $60,000 cut in annual state education funding.
Across Oklahoma, we are doing more with less this year in public classrooms. Our kids should be a top priority, but Oklahoma is cutting investments to education, and, sadly, that is a trend we have seen over the past few years. That means teachers and administrators are conducting our most important business venture for a better future with fewer resources and more pupils than ever. Collectively, we seem to be going backward, not forward, when it comes to making our youth and their education a priority.
To all the Cherokee citizens who have purchased a new Cherokee Nation tag, I say thank you, because that decision makes our academic partnerships possible and keeps them flourishing. As a sovereign government, we are blessed to be able to make such a positive and long-lasting impact on Oklahoma’s future.
Cherokee Nation supports public schools by the numbers:
- $4.7 million awarded this year to 106 school districts.
- $40 million since the program began in 2002.
- $165 dollars per Cherokee student this year.
- 370 percent increase since program began in 2002.
- 40 percent increase since 2011.
- 15 percent increase in Cherokee Nation at-large purchases in the past year.
- 38 cents of every dollar spent on a Cherokee Nation tag sold is earmarked for public education.
Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
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