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Democrats seek legal opinion on federal funds

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Several Oklahoma House Democrats requested a legal opinion Monday on Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt’s decision to spend federal coronavirus relief funds to send students to private schools.

Members of the House Democratic Education Policy Group requested a formal opinion from state Attorney General Mike Hunter.

Stitt faced criticism in July when he announced his plan to spend $10 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund to allow Oklahoma families to access $6,500 in funds for private-school tuition.

State Rep. Andy Fugate said he believes there are questions about the legality of the governor’s decision.

“We requested this opinion because it’s time to stop this ‘do as I say, not as I do’ approach to government funding,” Fugate, a Democrat from Del City, said in a statement, adding that the federal money isn’t “a slush fund for the governor to spend as he pleases.”

Stitt spokesman Charlie Hannema said guidance from the U.S. Department of Education specifically empowers governors to spend the funds to meet the needs of all Oklahoma students, including those who attend charter or non-public schools, and that the allegations by House Democrats “have no merit whatsoever.”

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