Tulsa Public Schools recently accepted donations of $1.2 million and $620,000 from private donors, and a group of parents provided $1.1 million to Jenks schools. Understandably, school officials praised the donations.
Yet it's ironic that both districts are among those fighting the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act, which allows parents of children with special needs to use state funds (already designated for the child's education) to pay for tuition at a private school. Jenks even sued the parents of children who obtained scholarships.
Apparently mixing public and private spheres is bad when it directly benefits children with special needs, but wonderful when administrators at public schools get control of private funds.
Critics claim the scholarship law takes money away from public schools, hurting all districts. Yet we notice Tulsa and Jenks didn't insist on running their private donations through the state's school funding formula so all districts could benefit. Apparently, they suddenly became a lot less concerned about equitable funding for all districts.
These same schools also have the legal authority to contract with private schools to provide services to children with special needs — the same schools that scholarship recipients might use. Some districts have done just that. So if a public school directs money to a private school, even a religious one, that's fine and dandy. But give a parent the chance to do the same thing for the same reason, and school administrators proclaim it a constitutional crisis.
We don't have a problem with private citizens supporting local schools. We're fans of the Lindsey Nicole Henry law. Both could benefit students.
But we are tired of double standards from school administrators and their “heads I win, tails you lose” approach to needy children.