CATOOSA, Okla. — Cherokee Nation distributed more than $231,000 to public schools in Delaware County at the tribe’s annual education summit held in Catoosa. The funding comes from a tribally-legislated act that generates funding for public schools using tribal tax dollars. Cherokee Nation law mandates that 38 percent of tax revenues generated through the sale of Cherokee Nation car tags must fund education. Since the act was passed in 2002, the amount of Cherokee Nation funding distributed to schools within its jurisdiction has been nearly $22 million. Northeastern Oklahoma schools this year will receive $2,734,757.77.
Education officials from public schools across the tribe’s jurisdiction were on hand today at Cherokee Nation’s annual education summit to receive their 2011 appropriations and listen to speakers such as Oklahoma Secretary of Education Dr. Phyllis Hudecki, presenting the event’s keynote address as tribal and education officials convened to discuss current education issues.
“We understand the challenge with public schools budget cuts, we are pleased that the Motor Vehicle Tag contribution supplements those strained budgets,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith. “We are looking forward to developing history and culture within public content and enriching lives in public schools.”
Each school’s funding amounts were determined by a formula based on the number of students attending the school that are citizens of the Cherokee Nation, although the school districts are not restricted to using the allocation in a particular manner or for any particular students. This year’s formula was allocated based on a total of 22,468 Cherokee students attending school in 94 school districts.
“We use this contribution to increase cultural heritage, replenish books and software and we always try to tie it into the arts program, which partakes in cultural activities,” said Kenny Guthrie, superintendent at Leach School. “If it wasn’t for Cherokee Nation, we would have a hard time offering any extras to our students.”
In addition to the unrestricted revenues presented to schools, Cherokee Nation introduced a new competitive grant opportunity for eligible schools, which is also funded by Cherokee Nation’s motor vehicle tag sales. The grant’s purpose is to encourage public schools to promote Cherokee programming or projects through Cherokee-specific instruction and/or co-curricular activities. The grant funding cycle is for one calendar year, starting Jan. 1, 2011. The total grant award allocated was $282,000 and ranged from $5,000 to $25,000 per school. Fourteen of the 27 grant applications received this year were selected.
Leach school is one of the 14 grant applicants to be selected receiving more than $18,000 to implement a two-part after school program lasting nine weeks. The program, which has more than a third of the school district’s students enrolled, will run from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. beginning in the fourth quarter.
“We are very proud to be able to support our local public schools with our motor vehicle revenue,” said Sharon Swepston, Cherokee Nation Tax Commission administrator. “Every year we hear all the great things the schools are able to do with the distribution and it is something that we look forward to being able to continue to do.”
Additional tax revenue from Cherokee Nation car tag sales funds local law enforcement and roads projects.