The Cherokee Nation distributed $5.4 million Friday to dozens of Green Country school districts.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the Cherokees are honoring their ancestors with the annual donation on Public School Appreciation Day.
"Our ancestors from the 1700s on have believed in education," Baker said. "They spent 60 percent of their budget in 1846 to build the male and female seminary to teach teachers to teach our kids."
The tribe gives 38 cents from every dollar of car tag revenues to public schools, a practice started in 2002. Baker said the additional funding is important during Oklahoma’s budget crisis.
"I do pray and look for the day when they’ll be piled on top of adequate funding so that education can not only be OK, but it can go to excellence," Baker said.
Funding is given on a per-student amount based on a district’s number of Cherokee students, but the money benefits the entire district and can be used as they wish.
Skiatook Public Schools received nearly $64,000. Superintendent Rick Thomas said recently, Cherokee Nation funding has helped offset one state budget cut after another, with the most recent 2 percent cut finalized just this week.
"Usually, when we talk about cuts, it’s, you know, what positions are we not going to be able to fill? What positions are we not going to be able to fund next year?" Thomas said.
Tulsa County districts received $1 million, including $77,781 for Tulsa Public Schools, $84,513 for Union Public Schools, $102,231 for Jenks Public Schools, $175,583 for Owasso Public Schools and $254,427 for Broken Arrow Public Schools.
Cherokee Nation distributed $1.3 million in 2002.