The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship Act, passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Brad Henry in 2010, provides public funds for eligible children with disabilities to attend private schools.
Students are eligible to receive the scholarship if they meet one of the following criteria:
- a student who attended a public school the prior year and was served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA);
- the child of active duty military stationed in Oklahoma with permanent change of station orders who has moved to Oklahoma after receiving IDEA services in another state;
- a student who has been served through the SoonerStart program and during transition has been determined to be eligible for school district services;
- a student in foster care, adopted from foster care, or in custody of the Office of Juvenile Affairs; or
- a student who has been in out-of-home placement with DHS, or who was adopted while in the permanent custody of DHS.
A participating private school receives a voucher in an amount equal to state and local dollars spent on the child in public school or the private school’s tuition and fees, whichever is less. The program has no income cap so any student who meets eligibility criteria is eligible regardless of the family’s income. In 2012, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the program faced with a challenge from Tulsa-area school districts.
In the 2020-21 school year, 1,135 students received scholarships totaling $7.3M, an average of roughly $6,500 per student, according to data from the State Department of Education. The number of scholarship recipients more than doubled from 2015-16 to 2020-21. There are 83 private schools that have been approved to participate, almost all of which are run by religious institutions.