OPINION: More than just a car tag

BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Former Principal Chief
03/03/2019 10:00 AM
Every time a tribal citizen registers a vehicle with the Cherokee Nation, they make an investment in public education and our young people. You see, our vehicle tags are more than just a pretty tag. By Cherokee Nation law, 38 percent of the revenues from our tag sales are earmarked specifically for public education. This year, thanks to our flourishing Motor Vehicle Tax program, Cherokee Nation is awarding a record-breaking $5.7 million to more than a hundred school districts in northeast Oklahoma.

Since 2002, Cherokee Nation has contributed more than $56 million to public education. Today, that investment in public education is more important than ever for the Cherokee Nation and the state of Oklahoma.

More tribal car tag revenue means we are able to serve more students. When we expanded the sale of Cherokee Nation tags statewide to all 77 Oklahoma counties in 2013, we knew the school systems in northeastern Oklahoma would reap the benefits. Indeed, it has proven to be an essential component of their annual budgets for many schools here.

Supporting local school districts is important to the Cherokee Nation’s long-term success. These partnerships with schools represent our investment for the future of our great state and our tribal government. Our tribal funding comes with no strings attached and is not earmarked for specific budget items, so every pupil benefits. This means we are helping area students in our local schools, regardless of whether they are Cherokee.

For Cherokee people, embracing education has always been a community value. It creates hope for a better future for our children and the generations to come. I come from a long line of teachers and administrators devoted to learning. My family’s background helped build a foundation and reinforced an ideal that I have embraced as a public servant: Supporting access to educational programs is the best investment we can ever make as a sovereign tribal government. Over the last several years, public education in Oklahoma has taken numerous financial hits and the proceeds from Cherokee car tags allow us to help fill in the gaps in school budgets.

I am extremely proud of the many ways our region benefits from these revenues. The Cherokee Nation Motor Vehicle Tax program not only saves our people money on their car tags and instills Cherokee pride, it also has a positive and lasting impact in our communities and schools. With every vehicle registered, we are investing in our children, in our families, and in our future as Cherokees and Oklahomans.

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