Constant dollars

State lawmakers approve plan to send medical marijuana tax revenues to low-income schools

When voters approved medical marijuana in 2018, supporters of the measure said part of its tax revenue would go to education. Now lawmakers think they’ve focused on how best to spend the multi-million dollar tax revenue.

On Wednesday, the Oklahoma House of Representatives unanimously approved a plan that would direct medical marijuana tax revenues to low-income districts of the state as well as public charter schools. The bill also overturns a decision by the State Department of Education to allow in-person and virtual charter schools to tap into local taxes intended to finance school building funds.

An estimated $ 38 million would be distributed among schools with the lowest local tax revenues. This year, it’s about 300 districts. Lawton Public Schools would see the biggest benefit with around $ 1.9 million in medical marijuana funds.

“We’re one of only four states in the country that doesn’t have some sort of equalization mechanism to provide low-value areas of the state because school districts just don’t get that much money.” because there isn’t as much wealth in their area, ”said Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow.

“The Redbud School Funding Act provides a much needed funding resource to hundreds of Oklahoma districts and charter schools that have struggled to construct and maintain local school buildings due to limited or no access.” to ad valorem dollars, ”State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said in a statement.

For schools that have a good collection of local property tax, Hilbert said his bill prevents them from losing money due to the BDS regulation, causing traditional schools to ditch local taxes to charter schools. .

“If we do nothing and the State Board of Education decision takes effect on July 1, Oklahoma City public schools, Tulsa public schools and many other schools that do not receive a grant will lose money. millions of dollars. send annually to charter schools, ”said Hilbert.

The bill is supported by both the State School Boards Association and the Charter School Association. Hilbert said it was a rare deal in a seemingly constant struggle for education funding.

The bill is now eligible to be heard in the State Senate.

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