Public schools are at the heart of communities on the Cherokee Nation reservation in northeastern Oklahoma. With more than 19 out of 20 school-aged children in Oklahoma attending public schools, these schools have an irreplaceable mission to be available to all children, regardless of background, to keep them safe throughout the day. and to provide the basic education and extracurricular opportunities to help them. discover and achieve their dreams.
Sure, it’s easy to say we support public education, but sometimes walking the talk isn’t so easy. I am proud that Cherokee Nation continues to put this support into action. Our strong partnerships with area schools have filled the gap when state funding leaves some districts scrambling to do what’s needed for Oklahoma’s youth. We support local school districts because the long-term success of the Cherokee Nation depends on the next generation of Cherokee children and all children living on our reservation.
This year, the Cherokee Nation is once again setting a new record by donating nearly $7.5 million to 107 school districts in northeast Oklahoma. That’s more than $1 million more than last year’s contribution. In total, Cherokee Nation has provided more than $76 million for public education since 2002 through the sale of tribal car tags.
These resources are in addition to the millions of dollars the Cherokee Nation provides the State of Oklahoma annually for education funding through our gaming pact. We are doing more than ever to build a talented population and educated who is ready for the future.
We also know that local educators and school leaders usually have a better understanding of what their school needs most. That’s why Cherokee Nation is offering these donations with no strings attached on how they’re used. If it does the best for schools to pay teachers’ salaries, that’s great. If it’s being used for infrastructure needs or classroom technology upgrades, that’s fine too. Over the past two years, many schools have used previous contributions to help respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. These extra dollars have allowed them to ensure that thousands of students stay connected and continue to learn safely.
The pandemic has only reinforced the importance of working together as community partners. We are proud to have helped schools find ways to adapt and excel.
We know that public education still has many needs in Oklahoma, especially after state leaders stopped investing in public education in recent decades. Cherokee Nation does the opposite. The tribe’s compact car tag dollars serve as a lifeline for local school districts. This is something that every one of our tribal citizens should be very proud of.
It’s always been the Cherokee way. Our tribal nation has a long and rich history of prioritizing education. In the same spirit as our ancestors, we invest in our children, our communities and our future as Cherokees and Oklahomans. Our investment in public education shows that we are all in it together.
Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.