Cherokee Nation gives $5.4M to 108 public schools
Principal Chief Bill John Baker addresses the crowd regarding the Cherokee Nation’s allocation of motor vehicle tax funds to public schools within the CN jurisdiction. The Public School Appreciation Day was held March 2 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in Catoosa. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation officials hold a novelty check for $390,145.40, representing the amount of CN motor vehicle tax funds that will go to Delaware County schools. With the CN officials are representatives from Delaware County schools. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
CATOOSA – During the Cherokee Nation’s annual Public School Appreciation Day on March 2 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, 108 public schools received more than $5.4 million of CN motor vehicle tax revenue to help their respective budges.
CN officials said schools located in the tribe’s jurisdiction received $177 per CN citizen enrolled and that there are 30,714 CN citizens enrolled.
The CN annually allocates 38 percent of jurisdictional motor vehicle tax revenue to public education per its compact with Oklahoma. This year’s amount surpassed the 2017 allocation by $400,000, officials said. Since 2002, the CN has allocated $50.5 million to schools.
Many public schools face budget cuts, and the tribe’s allocation helps alleviate shortages, CN officials said.
“A lot of the schools are able to maybe fund a teacher position that they had to let go or purchase a bus. Some of them have purchased athletic equipment. So they do lots of things they don’t have funding in their budget for, and this allows them to do whatever they need for their school because there are no earmarks on that money,” Sharon Swepston, CN Tax Commission administrator, said.
Kenwood School received $9,567.60 to help offset the lack of local funding and state cuts.
“Our school happens to be one that’s very isolated. We have very little local money, no real tax base and surrounded by Cherokee Nation land. So there’s not much taxable property. No industry, no businesses, or nothing like that,” Kenwood School Superintendent Billy Taylor said. “We depend on state funding, but it decreases all the time. So any little thing we get helps us a great deal, probably more important to us than the average school here. Most schools have a tax base greater than us.”
Taylor said the Delaware County school is about 98 percent Cherokee, both staff and students. He said school officials are appreciative of the tribe’s impact. He said the money is put into a general fund for school operations and teacher pay.
Pryor Public Schools received $142,096.55, and Superintendent Dr. Don Raleigh said the money funds teaching positions and educational opportunities such as science, technology, engineering and math activities.
“We recognize the commitment to all of our learners from the Cherokee Nation. During past budget challenges, the money donated from the Cherokee Nation really became a way to keep teachers because the amount we received actually funded two teaching positions. As funding has stabilized, we have used the money to fund STEM opportunities, especially at the elementary level by the purchase of supplies for our labs, robotics and educational field trips,” Raleigh said.
CN Education Services Executive Director Ron Etheridge said the CN also provides other opportunities to help jurisdictional schools.
“We also provide things for them, supplies and things through our Johnson-O’Malley program. We have other areas we try to help. We try to help them with valedictorian and salutatorian funding. We have scholarship areas once they graduate. So it’s not just the one time deal. Our (Tribal) council helps in (other) respective areas as well,” Etheridge said.Funding Amounts Per County
Adair County: $467,749.23
Cherokee County: $873,486.27
Craig County: $143,868.32
Delaware County: $390,145.40
Mayes County: $464,028.50
Muskogee County: $524,268.94
Nowata County: $89,829.12
*Osage County: $3,189.20
Ottawa County: $96,207.51
Rogers County: $534,722.42
Sequoyah County: $472,178.69
Tulsa County: $1,028,693.99
Wagoner County: $180,012.58
Washington County: $173,457
*Although Osage County isn’t in the tribe’s jurisdiction, there are schools near the tribe’s jurisdictional border that has CN citizens enrolled.