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Indigenous News

Cherokee Nation donates $7.5M to public schools in northeastern Oklahoma

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Kansas Public Schools
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Kansas Public Schools is among the 107 districts to receive money from the Cherokee Nation's car tag revenue.

The Cherokee Nation is giving $7.5 million to schools in northeastern Oklahoma for its annual Public School Appreciation Day, at least $1 million more than the tribe’s past contribution.

School districts like Kansas and Bixby Public Schools are among the 107 districts to receive money from the Cherokee Nation’s car tag revenue.

Cory Steele is serving his second year as Kansas Public Schools Superintendent, where he says there are roughly 800 students. He said the Cherokee Nation has also helped the district with other school projects like paving parking lots. Those contributions can fill in school funding gaps.

“When you talk about having to cut things or have shortfalls here or there, eventually that’s going to trickle back to the kids,” Steele said. “So when you have donations like this it helps you – it keeps that out of the back of your mind, having to worry about how we’re going to meet the needs of these kids.”

School districts get the money based on how many Cherokee Nation citizens are enrolled in the school, and then the districts decide how to use it. Steele said every public school district has different needs for students and for Kansas Public Schools, the money usually goes to places where it is lacking funding. For instance, he said some past contributions have gone to STEM programs.

The Cherokee Nation allocates 38% of its annual car tag revenue to education and Chuck Hoskin, Jr., the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, said the tribe has contributed at least $76 million to public education through the car tag revenue since 2002.

“The past two years have been unlike any other in modern history, and the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the importance of working together as community partners to move forward together,” Hoskin said. “I am proud of our longstanding partnerships with school districts in Northeast Oklahoma, and I know our investment in public education means we are all in it together.”

This report was produced by the Oklahoma Public Media Exchange, a collaboration of public media organizations. Help support collaborative journalism by donating at the link at the top of this webpage.

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