(USNewsMag.com) – In a move that would be a violation of the Constitution, an Oklahoma state school board voted June 5 to approve a religious charter school that is publicly funded, the first in the United States.
In a 3-2 vote, the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved the application for the establishment of the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School by the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma. The online public charter school, open to all children across Oklahoma, would serve children in kindergarten through grade 12.
The charter school, which will be funded by taxpayer dollars, will be run by the Diocese of Tulsa as well as the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. The school plans to admit 500 students for the 2024–2025 school year.
The Catholic Conference of Oklahoma’s executive director, Brett Farley, said the move is to give kids more educational options, especially kids in rural areas whose options are limited.
Before the vote, Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond gave a warning to the board that the Oklahoma Constitution would be violated by the decision. In a statement after the vote, Drummond said it was “disappointing” and that the decision is “contrary to Oklahoma law.” Charter schools in Oklahoma are required to be nonsectarian. He went on to say that the decision could cost taxpayers if legal action is taken.
According to Farley, they are “relying on Supreme Court precedent here.” He is referring to the three U.S. Supreme Court decisions that say if a state chooses to fund private schools, they “cannot discriminate against religious” schools.
Earlier this year, Oklahoma passed a school choice bill allowing parents to receive a tax incentive and be able to send their child to any school in the state. Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who signed the school choice bill into law, supports the vote by the board, saying it would give parents more educational options.
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