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$10M for private school students: AG opinion sought on Stitt's COVID-19 spending

$10M for private school students: AG opinion sought on Stitt's COVID-19 spending

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OKLAHOMA CITY — A group of Democratic House members asked Attorney General Mike Hunter on Monday to determine whether Gov. Kevin Stitt appropriately spent COVID-19 relief funds when he designated $10 million for private school students.

Seven members of the House Democratic Education Policy Team asked Hunter to examine how Stitt’s office distributed funds from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, called GEER. The members want Hunter to determine whether Stitt was within his authority when he chose to send a portion of the funds to private schools.

“We requested this opinion because it’s time to stop this ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach to government funding,” said Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City.

The funding is not a slush fund for the governor to spend as he pleases, Fugate said.

Stitt announced in July that $10 million of the nearly $40 million in GEER funds would go to students currently attending private schools whose continued attendance is threatened by the financial fallout of COVID-19.

His office said more than 1,500 families would be able to access up to $6,500 each.

Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, questioned the spending for private schools when it was announced.

Provenzano said the GEER . Stitt may have applied an incorrect standard in determining how those funds could be used, she said.

If Hunter determines that Stitt incorrectly allocated the funds, the group wants those funds to be redistributed according to the rules as outlined by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security — or CARES — Act, she said.

The group wants Hunter to look at how all of the GEER monies were allocated.

Funds also went to programs to allow schools to access digital content and grants to low-income families to purchase curriculum content, tutoring services and technology.

A spokesman for Stitt released a statement saying: “The allegations made by the Democrats have no merit whatsoever.

“Guidance from the U.S. Department of Education specifically empowers Governor Stitt to spend the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund to meet the needs of all Oklahoma students, including those who attend charter or non-public schools.

“Governor Stitt remains focused on supporting all Oklahoma students and their families as they safely return to school and will not be distracted by yet another misguided attempt by Democrats to politicize Oklahoma’s response to a pandemic as they try to divide our state ahead of an election.”


Gallery: COVID-19 basics

Barbara Hoberock

405-528-2465

barbara.hoberock@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @bhoberock

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