Cherokee Nation awards record $4 million from car tag sales to northeast Oklahoma school districts

March 27, 2015

(L to R) Front Row: Bartlesville Director of Federal Programs Stephanie Curtis, Cherokee Nation Tax Commission Administrator Sharon Swepston, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay and Caney Valley Superintendent Rick Peters.

TULSA, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation awarded checks totaling a record $4 million to 107 school districts Friday, during the tribe’s annual Public School Appreciation Day luncheon at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. That’s $664,000 more than in 2014, with an additional 16 school districts receiving funds.

The increased revenue and additional schools receiving assistance is due to the expansion of Cherokee Nation car tag sales statewide for the first time ever. Previously, only tribal citizens residing in the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction were eligible for Cherokee car tags. Now all Cherokees living in Oklahoma are eligible, increasing the number of Cherokee tags sold by more than 10,000 last year.

“Supporting our local school districts is important to our long-term success. These partnerships with schools represent the Cherokee Nation’s investment in the future of northeast Oklahoma,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “Expanding our car tags to all 77 Oklahoma counties helped us make an investment of $4 million into local schools. That is a huge benefit because these schools are able to use the extra dollars as they see fit, whether it’s staffing needs, equipment or other needs. Expanded tribal car tags mean we can do more for more local kids, whether they’re Cherokee or not.”

Each year the tribe allocates 38 percent of tax revenue from the sale of tribal car tags to help school districts fund teacher staffing, buy new technology or fulfill other needs. School districts have complete discretion on how to spend the funds.

Last month, the Tribal Council passed legislation to include distribution of funds to school districts that fall just outside tribal boundaries within Muskogee, Tulsa and Wagoner counties. Sixteen school districts are receiving Cherokee Nation funds for the first time, including:

• Keystone Elementary in Sand Springs

• KIPP Tulsa College Preparatory School

• Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences

• Sand Springs Public Schools

• Berryhill Public Schools

• Jenks Public Schools

• Glenpool Public Schools

• Union Public Schools in Tulsa

• Broken Arrow Public Schools

• Coweta Public Schools

• Bixby Public Schools

• Liberty Public Schools

• Haskell Public Schools

• Porter Consolidated Schools

• Oktaha Public Schools

• Wainwright Public Schools

Even with the addition of 16 new school districts, per pupil funding has increased from $135 to $143 per student.

“Broken Arrow Public Schools is truly grateful for the Cherokee Nation’s generosity and for their investment in our students’ success,” said Broken Arrow Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jarod Mendenhall. “With a substantial reduction in state funding over the past several years and the potential for even more budget cuts this year, this donation comes at a crucial time. From funding additional teaching positions to increasing student access to technology across our district, the donation will help Broken Arrow Public Schools provide opportunities for our students that might not otherwise be possible.”

Since 2002, the tribe has awarded $35.4 million from car tag tax revenue to school districts in northeastern Oklahoma. School districts receiving money educate more than 28,000 Cherokee students, although the contributions benefit all students.

“It’s such a blessing that statewide car tags help our tribe make a positive impact in more classrooms than ever before,” said Cherokee Nation Tax Commission Administrator Sharon Swepston. “The Tax Commission is grateful to those Cherokee Nation citizens who purchased our tribal tags and helped make these contributions to our schools possible.”

School districts in the following counties received donations totaling the following amounts:

• Adair $374,899

• Cherokee $678,806

• Craig $121,476

• Delaware $290,568

• Mayes $352,239

• Muskogee $427,391

• Nowata $66,977

• Ottawa $76,299

• Rogers $403,583

• Sequoyah $361,131

• Tulsa $670,775

• Wagoner $147,292

• Washington $109,572

• Osage $3,872