Oklahoma school board approves first taxpayer-funded faith-based school

The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board in Oklahoma voted to approve the first publicly funded faith-based school in the United States. The school board voted 3-2 to grant approval to the application submitted by the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma to form the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School which would be accessible to students throughout the entire state, ranging from kindergarten to grade 12. The application states that the “vision and purpose of the organization”  is to actively engage in the Church’s evangelizing mission and serve as a privileged setting for the implementation of Christian education. However, Attorney General Gentner Drummond of Oklahoma cautioned the board that their decision blatantly contravened the provisions outlined in the Oklahoma Constitution.

Religion News Service reports:

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A state school board in Oklahoma voted Monday to approve what would be the first publicly funded religious school in the nation, despite a warning from the state’s attorney general that the decision was unconstitutional.

The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board voted 3-2 to approve the application by the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma to establish the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School. The online public charter school would be open to students across the state in kindergarten through grade 12.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond had warned the board that such a decision clearly violated the Oklahoma Constitution.

“The approval of any publicly funded religious school is contrary to Oklahoma law and not in the best interest of taxpayers,” Drummond said in a statement shortly after the board’s vote. “It’s extremely disappointing that board members violated their oath in order to fund religious schools with our tax dollars. In doing so, these members have exposed themselves and the state to potential legal action that could be costly.”

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma said in the “vision and purpose of the organization” section of its application that: “The Catholic school participates in the evangelizing mission of the Church and is the privileged environment in which Christian education is carried out.”

Brett Farley, the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, said: “We are elated that the board agreed with our argument and application for the nation’s first religious charter school.”

Read the full article here.

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