TULSA, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation contributed more than $6 million to 108 school districts during the tribe’s annual Public School Appreciation Day Thursday. This year’s disbursement is the largest since the tribe began its annual contributions in 2002.
Aside from the millions of dollars the Cherokee Nation and other tribes provide to the state of Oklahoma for education funding each year through the tribal-state gaming compact, the Cherokee Nation also allocates 38 percent of its annual car tag revenue directly to education.
“The Cherokee Nation has long been a great partner to schools in Northeast Oklahoma because we know, especially in this endeavor, that we are all in it together,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “The long-term friendship forged between the Cherokee Nation and public schools is providing an indispensable pathway to opportunity for tens of thousands of young people living in our communities. I believe we will see the results of this friendship for generations to come, and it is such an honor to see a record of more than $6 million being presented to schools this year.”
School superintendents from across northeastern Oklahoma gathered at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa for a luncheon on Thursday and received their schools’ checks from the tribe.
“It’s always an honor to gather with school administrators, teachers, and everyone who plays such an important role in helping guide our young people while they are in the school system,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “There’s an old saying that education isn’t just the filling of a pail, but more like the lighting of a fire. I think that’s the task these educators have taken on, to help light that fire for students and create within them a passion and a desire to succeed. When the Cherokee Nation contributes this funding each year, we’re helping educators in more than 100 school districts fulfill that mission.”
School districts have total discretion on how to use the funding. In recent years, schools have used the funds to cover teacher salaries, operations, technology improvements or school programs.
For Sand Springs Public Schools, Cherokee Nation tribal car tag dollars support the district’s STEM initiative that was started in recent years, according to Superintendent Sherry Durkee. This year, the school received nearly $75,000.
“This donation is important to our work in public schools,” said Durkee. “Additional funds public schools receive allow for innovation and enhancement to the general curriculum provided by each district. It is the innovative ideas that help to promote student engagement and broaden opportunities for students.
Webbers Falls School in Muskogee County received more than $23,200 this year and expects to use the funds to provide students with a fulltime school counselor. Superintendent Dr. Dixie Swearingen thanked the tribe not only for providing the school with annual revenue from tribal car tag sales, but for being a strong community partner throughout the years.
“When the state was cutting funds, Cherokee Nation was increasing funds for our school,” said Swearingen. “The car tag money has helped fill the financial gaps that the state has imposed. In the past, we have used our Cherokee tag funds to buy books and supplies and hire paraprofessionals/tutors to help with additional guidance for our students who are struggling learners. Cherokee Nation has graciously blessed our school not only this year but throughout the years.”
School districts receive money based on the number of Cherokee Nation citizens they have enrolled, though funding benefits all students.
Since 2002, the Cherokee Nation has awarded school districts in northeastern Oklahoma $62.3 million in education contributions from car tag revenue.
“The Cherokee Nation Tax Commission is always grateful to play a role in making so many positive impacts for these 108 Oklahoma school districts,” Cherokee Nation Tax Commission Administrator Sharon Swepston said. “This $6 million will make a big difference in our communities, and I want to thank Cherokee Nation citizens for choosing to purchase a tribal car tag to help make these contributions possible each year.”
These counties received funds totaling the following amounts during the 2020 Public School Appreciation Day event:
Adair – $493,499.15
Cherokee – $929,855.93
Craig – $160,459.37
Delaware – $394,414.55
Mayes – $499,848.27
Muskogee – $585,849.89
Nowata – $92,735.52
Osage – $3,463.15
Ottawa – $102,932.57
Rogers – $582,963.91
Sequoyah – $497,154.71
Tulsa – $1,311,380.23
Wagoner – $206,827.13
Washington – $191,242.96