(The Center Square) – A bill that would create a single statewide charter school board in Oklahoma passed the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.
Currently, there are two charter school boards: virtual and brick-and-mortar. Senate Bill 516 would create one statewide board that would oversee charter schools. The bill would also authorize the board to review, approve, or deny contracts that charter schools seek to enter with private vendors.
The bill’s fiscal impact is estimated to be around $1 million and would cover the cost of an executive director and staff for the new statewide charter school board.
Much of the committee’s discussion on the bill focused on how a charter school would receive sponsorship. SB 516 would require a charter school first to seek support from the local school board, which is the largest change from another version of this bill circulated in the legislature last year, said bill sponsor Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond.
“This requires the charter school, in their application process, to first go to the local school district to seek sponsorship from the district, and there’s a time period put in there, and if they are able to continue to work through that process then the district, as is the case with a number of charter schools, can sponsor or the potential charter school can seek sponsorship elsewhere,” Pugh said.
Pugh said charter schools would ideally receive sponsorship from the local school district, and those entities could work together. The bill would also do away with the appeals process if the school district denies sponsoring the potential charter school.
“What all that means is this new state board will be able to override the decision of a local public school district that doesn’t want the entity operating that school district, is that right?” asked Sen. Jo Anna Dossett, D-Tulsa.
“No different than what can happen today,” said Pugh.
The state already does authorizations for charter schools, Pugh said.
“I’ve had schools come to me that said, ‘I will never sponsor a charter school.’ They just won’t. I get that,” Pugh said. “And that’s certainly within their purview. I think that’s the wrong approach to this process, but that’s within their purview. So when you have school districts saying, ‘I will never authorize a charter school,’ and you have communities of kids or parents who want that option in their community, then I think this is a reasonable approach to try to first make those two entities coordinate and try to get on the same page.”