Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, responded to criticism that one-third of families approved for a tax credit to send their children to private schools make over $150,000 a year by emphasizing the two-thirds of families receiving the tax credit make under that threshold.

“When you see two-thirds of families in the priority area, that will be an even larger number next year,” Treat said.

Treat was one of the authors of a 2023 law that created the Oklahoma Parental Choice Tax Credit, which lets parents get up to $7,500 a year for private school expenses. 

Sen. Kay Floyd speaks during The Frontier’s Talk Back Tour in Oklahoma City on Tuesday, June 11, 2024,. ASHLYND HUFFMAN/The Frontier

But Rep. Jason Lowe, D-Oklahoma City, said he believes the tax credit does not benefit all families. He said many families cannot afford to send their children to private school even with the tax credit. Instead, their children must go to the public schools near them, no matter the quality of the school or its funding. 

“That’s my problem with the so-called ‘school choice,’” Lowe said. “It’s not a choice.”

Treat, Lowe and other lawmakers discussed private school vouchers, the budget and other policy issues Tuesday at The Frontier’s Talk Back Tour event in Oklahoma City. Other attendees included Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd, D-Oklahoma City; Sen. Kristen Thompson, R-Edmond and Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond. The event was made possible by a grant from the Oklahoma Media Center and sponsors Citizens Bank of Edmond, Empire Slice House and Clubby Seltzers.

The Democratic and Republican Senate leaders Floyd and Treat also reflected on their time in the Senate as they both prepare to leave office in November. Both emphasized the importance of teamwork. 

“You get further when you work with people,” Floyd said.