© 2024 Blaze Media LLC. All rights reserved.
Oklahoma's top Republican officials divided on decision to approve taxpayer-funded, Catholic charter school
Photo by Chris Hondros/Newsmakers

Oklahoma's top Republican officials divided on decision to approve taxpayer-funded, Catholic charter school

An Oklahoma school board's approval Monday of what would be the country's first taxpayer-funded, religious charter school met with divided responses, including among the state's top Republican officials, the Center Square and other outlets reported.

"I applaud the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board’s courage to approve the authorization for St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School. This is a win for religious liberty and education freedom in our great state, and I am encouraged by these efforts to give parents more options when it comes to their child’s education," Oklahoma Republican Governor Kevin Stitt said in a statement Monday.

"Oklahomans support religious liberty for all and support an increasingly innovative educational system that expands choice. Today, with the nation watching, our state showed that we will not stand for religious discrimination," Gov. Stitt also said.

The Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved the school's application Monday in a 3-2 vote.

Charter schools are autonomously-run public schools with "more flexibility in the operations and management of the school than traditional public schools." According to the National Charter School Resource Center, charter schools cannot charge tuition nor can they be affiliated with a religious institution.

The online charter school would be run by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa and would be funded with taxpayer dollars, according to the New York Times.

While the Sooner State's governor applauded the decision, Oklahoma Republican Attorney General Gentner Drummond decried it.

"The approval of any publicly funded religious school is contrary to Oklahoma law and not in the best interest of taxpayers," Drummond said, as the Center Square reported.

"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," Drummond also said.

"AG Drummond’s opposition is certainly his prerogative, but we believe his interpretation of the law is simply wrong," Brett Farley, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma told TheBlaze Tuesday morning.

Farley noted that Drummond's predecessor, Attorney General John O'Connor, "issued the very thorough and groundbreaking opinion which argued that recent Supreme Court precedent not only protects religious liberty in the context of charters, it demands it."

Farley, as Gov. Stitt, champions yesterday's decision to establish the nation's first religious charter school as a "very big step" in the direction of expanding school choice.

Ryan Walters, Oklahoma's State Superintendent of Public Instruction, like Gov. Stitt and Brett Farley, applauded the decision, describing it as "religious liberty via school choice."

"This decision reflects ... the will of the people of Oklahoma ... I have fought for school choice in all forms and this further empowers parents. We will make sure every Oklahoma parent has the opportunity to decide what is best for their child," Superintendent Walters said in a press release.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State announced the organization's intention to take legal action in a press release Monday.

"State and federal law are clear: Charter schools are public schools that must be secular and open to all students ... And the government should never force anyone to fund religious education. In a country built on the principle of separation of church and state, public schools must never be allowed to become Sunday schools," the organization wrote.

Like Blaze News? Bypass the censors, sign up for our newsletters, and get stories like this direct to your inbox. Sign up here!

Want to leave a tip?

We answer to you. Help keep our content free of advertisers and big tech censorship by leaving a tip today.
Want to join the conversation?
Already a subscriber?