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Cherokee Nation Gives Record $6.3M To Public Schools
by Lindsay Bark - Cherokee Phoenix Reporter
Cherokee Nation officials provide a record $6.3 million to public schools during its annual Public School Appreciation Day virtual event on April 7.

TAHLEQUAH – After a year of uncertainty due to the pandemic and Oklahoma schools struggling to provide for students because of it, the Cherokee Nation on April 7 provided a record $6.3 million to 107 school districts during a virtual Public School Appreciation Day event.

The tribe has provided such funds annually since 2002 via revenue from motor vehicle tag sales, allocating 38% to education This year funds equated to $217.09 per student for nearly 30,000 students who are CN citizens, though funding helps all students.

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. spoke to school leaders about the difficult year they faced when all Oklahoma schools were forced to close in March 2020.

"You've gone through the worst public health crisis in generations," Hoskin said. "You've had to make some of the toughest decisions of any leaders around that I know in terms of what to do with your school on any given day during times of great uncertainty. We've done our best to be there for you. So we'll be there with you in the good times and tough times. But you've got a friend in the Cherokee Nation."

Most schools in the past have used funds for teacher salaries, operations, technology or other improvements. This year most schools are using funds to recover and respond to the effects of the pandemic on their school systems, according to a CN press release.

Westville Public Schools in Adair County are using funds to support COVID-19 protocols and the driver's education program.

"We have received a driver's education car, masks and PPE to help during COVID-19, along with extra funding to help us deal with COVID," said Westville Superintendent Terry Heustis. "Of course, we also receive motor vehicle tag money that has no strings attached and we have used it in multiple ways over the years. It always comes when we need an extra hand."

Sand Springs Schools are using funds to enhance technological capabilities for students.

"The Cherokee Nation's generosity has enabled our district to enhance our capability to provide mobile devices to all students and to provide support for connectivity. This is helping us address inequities that exist among our students," said Sand Springs Superintendent Sherry Durkee.

In 2020, the CN Tax Commission also had to work through hard times to provide services to CN citizens so that motor vehicle tag sales could continue, including mail-in and online sales and renewals.

"We get an abundance of mail that comes in, which is something that we figured when we were closed during COVID how difficult it was with all of that coming in," said Tax Commission Administrator Sharon Swepston. "I want to thank my staff for all of their hard work over this past year. I know it has been very trying in some instances but they have pulled together as a team and they have done very well and I just appreciate so much all of the hard work that they do."

CN Executive Director of Education Corey Bunch announced that the CN will also begin offering virtual tutoring services for students in the tribe's reservation in grades k-12.

"We've had many parents, many educators, many school leaders reach out to us about some of the learning losses taking place because of the pandemic," Bunch said. "We're excited to announce that we have just entered into a contract with Varsity Tutors, which is a company that has created a digital platform to provide tutoring services, instructors and experts in the education field to connect one on one with students."

Per County Funding

Adair: $529,277

Cherokee: $921,784

Craig: $164,340

Delaware: $416,387
Mayes: $545,993 Muskogee: $591,366 Nowata: $104,422 Osage: $2,822
Ottawa: $111,369 Rogers: $627,838 Sequoyah: $533,401 Tulsa: $1,327,317
Wagoner: $213,404 Washington: $216,660

An info graph shows how much per county the Cherokee Nation has funded public schools during its annual Public School Appreciation day.
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