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Point of View: Financial bridge available to Oklahoma families seeking education alternative

Hopper Smith
Hopper Smith

One of the most sacred values in our society is encouraging nurturing parents to raise children based on the academic and social needs of the child.

Regrettably, in Oklahoma, many parents do not get to select where their kids go to school. In short, their ZIP code determines the kind of public education their children receive.

A small percentage of affluent families can easily access high-quality private schools, but this is not true for most Oklahomans. To complicate this reality, the COVID-19 pandemic caused even more people to suffer economically and further widened the access gap.

What options are available to parents who desperately need a financial bridge? This is where the Opportunity Scholarship Fund (OSF) shines. We shrink the disparity between a child’s needs and what a family can afford. We intentionally help lower-income families afford the right schools by turning generous donations from individuals and corporations into tuition assistance for nearly 70 accredited private schools across Oklahoma.

National School Choice Week, Jan. 24-30, is the perfect time to celebrate the difference we have made for thousands of students — students who need an environment where they can fight drug addiction, avoid bullies and gangs, live out their faith, or get the individualized attention for special needs that may be limited at public schools.

Additionally, during the pandemic, private schools were able to nimbly respond to the ever-changing safety protocols. The greatest result is less stress on parents and less chance of interrupting students’ development.

Perhaps the best thing about our program is that we connect charitable givers directly with schools that meet specific student needs. We have found Oklahomans to be very generous when they know their dollars are going directly into a classroom to meet a child’s need. Oklahoma needs a wide variety of education alternatives to accommodate a very diverse population and the uniqueness of each child. We are lucky to live in a state that recognizes supporting a wide variety of models as the best way to help our children reach their potential.

At OSF, we will continue doing everything we can to help families who want an accredited private school education for their child. With the help of our donors, we can change lives and secure a successful future for all of Oklahoma’s kids.

Smith is president of the board of directors of the Opportunity Scholarship Fund.