OKLAHOMA CITY (January 20, 2021)— The Stay in School Fund tuition assistance program, launched by Governor Kevin Stitt in July 2020, has exceeded expectations in ensuring low-income families who suffered a COVID-19-related job loss or demonstrated financial challenges could maintain consistency in their child’s learning environment.
"Our Stay in School program has successfully supported more low-income children and their families than officials predicted for a fraction of the cost,” said Gov. Stitt. “By ensuring these children could remain within their educational support system amidst a global pandemic, we have provided critical stability for families who need it most.”
“I am a single mother of two who attend a Christian school. As is, I struggle to send them there, but I make the sacrifices necessary because I think Christian education is important. I work two jobs, which both have been very much affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. With everything that’s happened I knew I couldn’t afford tuition. I am more than grateful to have been given the opportunity for my kids to stay in their school and have some sense of normalcy." – Josephine Shaw, mother of Stay in School Fund students
“Without Governor Stitt’s support and the generosity of the ‘Stay in School fund’ program, my daughter would have not been able to continue her education within the private school sector. Due to a recent terminal diagnosis, my family has had a sudden shift in all areas, but thanks to Governor Stitt and his God-fearing heart, my daughter did not have to take a sudden shift in her education, teachers, and friends. No amount of gratitude can suffice.” – Teresa Ponce, mother of a Stay in School Fund student
“Our family came here to Oklahoma due to business opportunities, but COVID lent to further difficulty as we, like many, had to close one business and I lost one of my two part-time jobs. Your grant program came at just the right time for our family. We were so thankful to have been given the opportunity to apply. When we learned we had been approved, it lifted a huge weight. We truly appreciate Governor Stitt for advocating for our kids. From a full heart, we can’t say ‘thank you’ enough!” – Dawn Hughes, mother of a Stay in School Fund student
The Stay in School Fund program used $10 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief(GEER) Fund, provided through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to help stabilize Oklahoma’s education system and reduce Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) by providing temporary funds to students currently attending private schools whose continued attendance was threatened by the financial fallout of COVID-19.
The program largely benefits low-income families. More than one out of every five children benefitting from the program came from a home with income at 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL) or lower, which equates to a family of four with $26,200 or less in annual income. Nearly 60% of recipients were from families with incomes at 185% of the FPL or less, or $48,470 for a family of four.
When the Stay in School fund was first launched in July, it was predicted the program would benefit more than 1,500 Oklahoma children with scholarships up to $6,500 each. Ultimately, the program helped 25% more children at 20% lower cost (1,893 children at an average cost of $5,132 per child).
Students who received funding attend 97 private schools across the state, including schools in non-metropolitan communities such as Clinton, Durant, Sulphur, Ponca City, Muskogee, Bartlesville, Tahlequah, Enid, Miami, Choctaw, McAlester, Okarche, Corn and Ardmore.
"The Stay in School Fund was a lifeline for Crossover Prep. As a private school that raises 100% of the cost to provide north Tulsa young men with a quality education, we would not have been able to overcome the financial impact of COVID-19 and make it through the school year without the Stay in School Fund." – Philip Abode, Executive Director of Crossover Preparatory Academy
"The Stay in School fund was a tremendous blessing for Altus Christian Academy families most impacted by the shutdown. It allowed their children to continue enrollment in the school they know and love, providing stability in an otherwise unsettling time. We appreciate Governor Stitt’s courage and compassion in protecting the educational choices made by these families." – Dana Darby, Head of School at Altus Christian Academy
"The SIS fund was a blessing to our low-income families that applied and were awarded funds. It allowed them to continue their children's education without disruption and provided some relief during COVID conditions for their jobs and income. Many of these families are still struggling due to COVID and are greatly concerned about educational stability for their children. We ask that the funding be equitable for parents who really need it. We appreciate the assistance during these trying times."– Dr. Sarah Morrison, Superintendent of Victory Life Academy in Durant
"COVID-19 has impacted numerous lives not only physically but financially as well. Several students at Western Oklahoma Christian School were recipients of Stay in School Funds. Without this assistance our families might have had to leave our school. In addition to the pandemic, Western Oklahoma took a direct hit due to multiple layoffs in the oilfield industry. These funds benefitted our families by allowing them to remain at school providing them a sense of normalcy during a time of hardship." – Dora Miller, Principal of Western Oklahoma Christian School
"Christian Heritage Academy had 100 students qualify for and receive the Stay In School scholarship. All of the families of these students had, obviously, already made the choice to have their children taught in a Christian school where the values and beliefs of the parents are being reinforced five days per week. The Stay In School scholarships assisted these families in being able to financially sustain that choice. All of these families sacrifice, and many of them struggle, to keep their children at Christian Heritage Academy. The impact for these families has been significant." – Josh Bullard, Headmaster at Christian Heritage Academy
To read the full Stay in School Fund report, click here.