(The Center Square) – The authority to sponsor statewide virtual charter schools in Oklahoma would be in the hands of a new nine-member board under a bill that advanced out of the House Common Education Committee Tuesday.
Senate Bill 516 would abolish the Statewide Charter School Board and replace it with a new nine-member board overseeing the state’s brick-and-mortar charter schools.
If passed, three members would be appointed by the governor, two by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and two more by the Speaker of the House. The board would also include the Superintendent of Public Instruction or his or her designee and the State Auditor and Inspector or his or her designee, according to the bill.
SB 516 would also modify how brick-and-mortar charter schools get sponsored.
After July 1, 2024, an application seeking to establish a new charter school would first be submitted to the board of education in the area where the new charter school would be located. The local board of education would have 60 days to approve or deny the application, after which the applicant could submit a revised application. If the local board of education refuses to approve the application twice, the applicant could submit their charter school application to any authorized sponsor.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Rep. Melissa Provenzano, D-Tulsa, questioned the bill’s language regarding local input about charter schools.
“The local community is stricken out as having input into the development of the charter school and I feel like that’s probably important to include that given that over time charter schools tend to become very similar to neighborhood schools where we have geographic representation of the population inside the school largely from the neighborhood surrounding it,” Provenzano said.
Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, said his bill ensures the local community won’t be left out.
“One of the major differences between this and current law is under current law, you could totally avoid the local school board and go straight to, for example, a university. Under this law, no one could avoid the local school board even if you were to go to one of our public universities,” said Echols.
The bill’s fiscal impact for 2024 is estimated to be around $5.4 million.