Finding new ways to bring funds into the public school system is a commendable idea and I am grateful to the Oklahoma Legislature for expanding the Oklahoma Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Act to include more funds for us.
Grateful, that is, until I start through the steps taken to acquire these funds! Whew! I mean, if I didn’t have the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and the Oklahoma State School Board Association’s help, I would not even know where to begin.
The law seems simple enough: individuals can donate to public school districts (or their qualifying education foundations) and receive tax credits up to 75%! Businesses can donate as well and receive a similar deal.
But the fine print, the unintended consequences of this law, make me feel like I need to be a tax professional and a lawyer to ensure I am in compliance. First, we had to get our school board to approve us as a scholarship accepting entity. Then we had to apply with the Oklahoma Tax Commission to get into their system. There were questions on that form of which I have only a fleeting understanding (luckily they were very helpful).
Our next step is to decide the threshold of gift for which we will offer the tax credits. It could be different from district to district, which gives me pause for a couple of reasons. Then we write letters to those people who qualify under our parameters and hopefully have conversations with interested parties, always with the caveat “discuss this with your tax professional!” I imagine I’ll say that a dozen times each meeting because I am so paranoid about giving inaccurate information.
Then, at the end of the year, we are to submit information to the Oklahoma Tax Commission about which individuals and businesses should get the credits. They will assess those numbers for the entire state, and publish the actual rate of tax credit based upon the law’s caps for public schools.
Then I am to inform my donors of their tax credit rate.
I think I have all this right. But I am still talking with colleagues and professionals about it.
Did anyone writing this bill imagine the hoops we’d have to jump through in order to provide this opportunity? Did they know the staff situations of most public school foundations in Oklahoma? Barely a handful of us even conduct yearly audits, which are required to participate.
I really hope it makes a difference, but I am skeptical about my getting it all right this first year! Patience and grace.
January 27, 2022