Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cherokee Nation Awards Over $4 Million to School Districts; Sequoyah County Schools Get $361,131

At the Cherokee Nation tag money presentation are, from the left in front, Gore J.O.M. Coordinator Rhonda Eagle, Roland Superintendent Randy Wood, Central Superintendent Larry Henson, Cherokee Nation Tax Commission Administrator Sharon Swepston, Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Belfonte Superintendent Paul Pinkerton, Brushy Principal Carla Fivekiller, Tribal Councilor David Thornton and Gore Clerk Belinda Madding. In back from the left are Gore Superintendent Lucky McCrary, Marble City Superintendent Bill London, Vian Superintendent Victor Salcedo, Muldrow Superintendent Ron Flanagan, Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd, Vian Treasurer Ed Brockman, Liberty Assistant Principal Chris Michael, Sallisaw Superintendent Scott Farmer and Gans Superintendent Larry Calloway. Sequoyah County Schools received $361,131.

On Friday the Cherokee Nation awarded checks totaling a record $4 million to 107 school districts 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. According to a press release from the Cherokee Nation, the increased revenue and additional schools receiving assistance is due to the expansion of the 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 in 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 with Muskogee, Tulsa and Wagoner counties. Sixteen school districts are receiving Cherokee Nation funds for the first time. Even with the addition of 16 new school districts, per pupil funding increased from $135 to $143 per student. 

Muldrow Public Schools Superintendent Ron Flanagan said, "This year, like almost every year, we're going to use the Cherokee Nation funding to upgrade the technology at our three sites. As a Cherokee Nation citizen, I'm proud of the partnership that has existed between Muldrow Public Schools and the Cherokee Nation over the years. It's a great feeling to know that the money I spent on my Cherokee Nation tag goes back to the school, because that's money we need and depend on year in and year out."

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 contributors benefit all students. 

School districts in Sequoyah county received donations totaling $361,131.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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