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Oklahoma lawmaker hopes to enhance Tulsa Race Massacre descendant scholarship program

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Jamie Glisson / Focus: Black Oklahoma
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Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa) speaks at Tulsa's Juneteenth celebration in 2020.

A Tulsa Democrat is pushing a measure to reform and enhance a scholarship program originally intended for the descendants of survivors and victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre.

Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa, represents the Greenwood District. And her measure, House Bill 4154, would ensure that descendants of survivors and victims of the Tulsa Race Massacre would be given preference when applying for a Tulsa Reconciliation Scholarship with the Oklahoma Regents for Higher Education.

Her bill would also add that the FAFSA form many students complete for financial aid can be used as family income verification and increase the amount a student’s family can make and still qualify for the program from $70,000 to $120,000 annually.

"This is the least we can do,” she said in an interview.

The measure passed out of the House Appropriations and Budget Education Subcommittee. It will now move onto the House’s full budget committee before it can be heard on the floor.

“What can the legislature do to enhance this scholarship and keep it moving for generations to come?” She asked her fellow lawmakers during the committee hearing.

The scholarship program came in the wake of a 2001 Commission Report that recommended reconciliation steps for descendants of survivors and victims. Last year, Goodwin requested an interim study that was denied to monitor the progress of that commission, but it was denied by House leadership.

“Studying a previous state study on a matter now with the courts in active litigation is duplicative,” House Speaker Charles McCall said in a statement to CHNI’s Janelle Stecklein at the time. “Many existing studies on the topic, including the 2001 state study, are widely available for review and discussion.”

Goodwin says she hopes the legislature will appropriate an additional $1.5 million to grow and expand the program as part of the budget process.

The state has given about eight $1,000 scholarships a year over the last two decades to Tulsa high school graduates.

In the last 20 years, the state has only given out 159 scholarships, Goodwin said.

She said it’s unclear how many of those recipients are actually descendants because they aren’t asked in the scholarship application form.

"When it comes to policy and legislation, we need to do all that we can,” she said. “That we're not going to give it lip service, but we're going to have legislation to improve lives.”

Robby Korth joined KOSU as its news director in November 2022.
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