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June 5, 2023

The Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board (SVCSB) today became the first such entity in the nation to approve an application to establish a charter school based on religious curriculum, programs and policies.

The application was approved by a 3-2 vote. A new member of the SVCSB, who was just appointed three days ago, provided the third vote, defying the request of the Chairman of the Board that he recuse himself.

“We must be very clear: this decision harms all public schools and students,” said Robert Kim, Executive Director of Education Law Center, a nonprofit legal and advocacy organization. “Charter school laws were passed based on assurances that they are public schools open to all students. Allowing a religious charter school upends the very notion of public education by endorsing a school that has signaled it does not consider itself fully bound by state or federal laws, including non-discrimination requirements, that are essential to a public education system.”

Education Law Center’s statement on the SVCSB’s initial denial of St. Isidore’s application can be found here. That statement explained in detail that Oklahoma charter schools are legally required to be secular and to comply with state and federal antidiscrimination laws, but St. Isidore’s application violated these essential mandates. Like the original, St. Isidore’s resubmitted application again indicates that the school would not commit to serving all students as required by law, including those with disabilities or who identify as LGBTQ+.

“Religious instruction is not permitted in the nation’s public schools, nor is discrimination of any kind,” said Jessica Levin, ELC Acting Litigation Director and Director of Public Funds Public Schools, a national campaign to keep public money in public schools. “Approving the St. Isidore application flies in the face of these legal requirements and the laws that Oklahomans put in place for their state public education system.”

The Oklahoma SVCSB has made a grave error that will not go unchallenged by ELC and other public education supporters in the state and across the country. Efforts to protect public school students and the public education system under the law and according to cherished democratic norms of openness and inclusion will continue unabated.

Press Contact:

Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x 240