The Cherokee Nation gave a record $5 million to 107 school districts during the tribe’s annual Public School Appreciation Day, 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.
School districts have total discretion on how to spend the dollars.
“The Cherokee Nation funding has been vital to our school in the wake of unprecedented state budget cuts,” Fort Gibson Public Schools Superintendent Derald Glover said. “The funding we receive from the Cherokee Nation has grown to the point that we use it to maintain two classroom teachers, and it is almost enough to protect a classroom aide position as well.”
Webbers Falls Public Schools will be using the Cherokee Nation funds to meet payroll, purchase cleaning supplies, and pay for utilities, fuel and paper.
“The funding from Cherokee Nation is critical in meeting and extending the shrinking revenue that our schools receive,” Webbers Falls Superintendent Dr. Dixie Swearingen 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 Muskogee County received the following donation amounts during the 2017 Public School Appreciation Day event:
- Braggs Public Schools $8,823.35
- Fort Gibson Public Schools $114,537.03
- Haskell Public Schools $6,992.09
- Hilldale Public Schools $77,079.42
- Muskogee Public Schools $171,306.11
- OK School for the Blind $1,664.78
- Oktaha Public Schools $31,963.82
- Porum Public Schools $27,801.87
- Wainwright Public Schools $3,829.00
- Warner Public Schools $51,441.78
- Webbers Falls Public Schools $17,979.65