Oklahoma Approves Nation’s First Religious Charter School

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Oklahoma approved the nation’s first taxpayer-funded religious charter school during a Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board (OSVCSB) meeting Monday.

The OSVCSB approved the new online school, which will be run by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa, in a 3-2 vote Monday, according to a recording of the meeting. However, the state’s Attorney General Gentner Drummond criticized the decision to approve the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School as “unconstitutional,” highlighting in a statement the anticipated legal battle to follow.

“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. “It’s extremely disappointing that board members violated their oath in order to fund religious schools with our tax dollars.” (RELATED: Catholic Org Launches Initiative Encouraging Parents To Revolt Against Sexually Explicit, Transgender Books)

Brett Farley, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, the organization behind the proposal, told The New York Times they “invite” legal challenges “for the sake of the country and answering that question” of whether taxpayer funds can be used on a religious school.

Recent Supreme Court rulings have cleared the way for the school’s approval. In June 2022, the Supreme Court held in Carson v. Makin that Maine can no longer prevent its tuition voucher program from being used at religious schools.

Farley previously told Reuters in April the school was the “next logical step” following the ruling.

The board previously voted not to approve St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School in April after concerns about its constitutionality were raised during the meeting.

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt backed the application, saying that the government “takes a backseat to parents who get to determine the best learning environment for their child.”

The Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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