(The Daily Caller News Foundation) – The Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved a contract Monday for the country’s first religious charter school, according to The Washington Post.
The charter for the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School was approved by the board in June, but a lawsuit was filed in July in an attempt to block the state from allowing religious groups to use taxpayer funding for schools. The board, however, went ahead with approving a contract this week in a 3 to 2 vote, putting the school one step closer to opening enrollment for the fall of 2024, according to the Post.
A spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, which will run the virtual charter school, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that they were “excited” by the board’s decision.
“We are excited to be one step closer to providing new education opportunities for families in great need in Oklahoma via St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Catholic School,” the spokesperson said. “The St. Isidore board will review the final contract in the coming days.”
Robert Franklin, the chairman of the board, expressed concerns about the charter school and voted no on approving the contract, according to the Post.
“I am very concerned about the oath that I took just like everybody else to uphold the state charter school act and the state’s constitution,” Franklin said. “It’s very, very problematic and it does not align well.”
In February, the state Attorney General Gentner Drummond issued an opinion stating that he felt that the proposed charter school would justify “state-funded religion.” He also chastised an opinion from his predecessor, John O’Connor, on the charter, saying that it does “nothing” to protect religious liberty but instead “misuses” it.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters came out in support of the idea of religious charters, according to the Post. Republican Governor Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma previously told the DCNF that the more options parents have when deciding how to educate their children, the better.
“I don’t think we should discriminate based on your faith and I think that those dollars should flow wherever a parent, a school district, a charter wants to set up,” Stitt said.