Published March 25, 2017
TULSA, OKLAHOMA — The Cherokee Nation gave a record $5 million to 107 school districts during the tribe’s annual Public School Appreciation Day Friday, providing a boost in revenue to many schools struggling under the weight of state budget cuts.
The Cherokee Nation sells tribal car tags and allocates 38 percent of the revenue each year to education. The first full year Cherokee Nation car tags were sold outside the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction was in 2015, and the expansion has since allowed the Cherokee Nation to provide even more money for classroom needs.
“When Cherokees across Oklahoma register their vehicles with the Cherokee Nation, they are making an investment in education, an investment in our young people and in the future,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “These revenues help bolster public education in an era when Oklahoma school budgets continue to be slashed because of poor policy decisions and the downturn in the state economy. I am so proud our tribal sovereign government supports public education and works to cultivate quality partnerships with area schools.”
School districts use the funds for salaries, much-needed supplies, support programs or other projects they say are underfunded or facing elimination because of a budget crunch.
Owasso Public Schools received $150,000. School districts have total discretion on how to spend the dollars.
“The Cherokee Nation funding benefits our Indian education programming, enabling us to provide cultural events and activities for students and families,” said Dr. Clark Ogilvie, superintendent of Owasso Public Schools, which covers parts of Rogers and Tulsa counties. “It also enables our middle grades to offer after-school tutoring to all students and all of our schools to purchase classroom supplies, such as Chromebooks and Dry Erase boards or instructional programs for teachers to use in the classroom with students. All of the funding goes directly to services for students and learning.”
Salina Public Schools Superintendent Tony Thomas said the Mayes County district plans to use this year’s $70,000 in funding to repair a leaking roof at the high school.
“The financial support that the car tag revenue brings to Salina Public Schools is truly appreciated because it is not earmarked, which provides an avenue to repair existing structures or sustain current programs that are in place but could be eliminated because of the current funding cuts from the state of Oklahoma,” Thomas said.
Since 2002, the tribe has awarded $45.1 million in education contributions from car tag revenue to more than 100 school districts in northeast Oklahoma. The districts receiving the money educate more than 30,000 Cherokee students, although the contributions benefit all students in those school districts.
This year, schools received $166 per enrolled Cherokee Nation student.
“The Cherokee Nation Tax Commission is so grateful to be able to make a positive impact in more than 100 Oklahoma schools,” said Tax Commission Administrator Sharon Swepston. “I want to thank our citizens for choosing to purchase a Cherokee Nation car tag and helping make these contributions possible.”
School districts in the following counties received the following donation amounts during the 2017 Public School Appreciation Day event:
• Adair $431,012
• Cherokee $804,589
• Craig $152,993
• Delaware $353,932
• Mayes $425,185
• Muskogee $513,418
• Nowata $80,575
• Osage $2,996
• Ottawa $87,734
• Rogers $487,781
• Sequoyah $430,179
• Tulsa $927,450
• Wagoner $166,977
• Washington $157,821
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This BBSNews article originally appeared on Native News Online.