Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker speaks to more than 100 public school administrators at the tribe’s annual Public School Appreciation Day
Published February 14, 2016
TULSA —The Cherokee Nation awarded a record $4.7 million in donations to 106 school districts during the tribe’s annual Public School Appreciation Day Friday, where many school superintendents said they are struggling from state budget cuts.
The Cherokee Nation sells tribal car tags and uses 38 percent of revenue for education.
The first full year that Cherokee Nation car tags were sold statewide was in 2015. Car tag revenues for education in that time increased from $4 million to $4.7 million.
“As the state allocates less and less each year to public education, the Cherokee Nation is making a record-breaking contribution to area schools. That’s something that every one of our tribal citizens can take great pride in. We are investing in our children, investing in our communities and investing in our future as Cherokees and as Oklahomans,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “The partnerships we have carefully cultivated with area schools are some of our most important, because together we are creating a positive and long-lasting effect in northeast Oklahoma.”
Classroom donations from tribal vehicle tag revenue have increased 370 percent, from $1.26 million originally, since the program began in 2002.
School superintendents have no restrictions and can use the funds at the district’s discretion.
“In today’s funding climate, I don’t know what we would do without the support of the tag money,” said Warner Public Schools Superintendent David Vinson in Muskogee County. “It’s meaningful because we get to choose how to spend it, and for the last four years we have used it to employ staff that work directly with students in our reading assistance program.”
Claremore Public Schools had to curb spending for classroom materials this school year.
“We are so short right now that we’ve put a block on supplies,” Claremore Superintendent Michael McClaren said. “This gracious award from the Cherokee Nation will help out our teachers and provide some of the routine resources they have not had this year.”
Since 2002, the tribe has awarded $40.1 million total in education donations from car tag revenue to about 100 school districts in northeast Oklahoma. School districts receive $165 per Cherokee Nation student enrolled this year. The districts receiving money educate more than 28,000 Cherokee students, although the contributions benefit all students and classrooms in those school districts.
“With the success of car tag sales expanding statewide, the Cherokee Nation Tax Commission is so grateful to be able to make a positive impact in more classrooms than ever before,” said Tax Commission Administrator Sharon Swepston. “On behalf of my staff and commission, I want to thank our citizens for choosing to purchase a Cherokee Nation tag and helping make these contributions possible.”
School districts in the following counties received the following donation amounts during the 2016 Public School Appreciation Day event.
• Adair $412,260
• Cherokee $780,516
• Craig $137,309
• Delaware $337,319
• Mayes $411,764
• Muskogee $495,970
• Nowata $79,739
• Ottawa $73,452
• Rogers $469,004
• Sequoyah $409,448
• Tulsa $788,291
• Wagoner $132,181
• Washington $147,401
• Osage $3,474