Termination of Catholic charter school contract on hold

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The new governing body over all charter schools in Oklahoma did not terminate the contract between the state and the Catholic Church that would have established the first religious charter school in the United States using taxpayer dollars as its sole funding source.

Last month, in a 7-1-1 vote, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled the agreement entered into between the state and the founders of Saint Isidore of Seville Online Catholic Charter School violated both the U.S. and state constitutions. The ruling ordered the board to terminate the agreement, but on Monday, board members were told the Catholic Church is asking the state supreme court to stay its ruling while it plans out its next steps.

“We do plan on honoring and respecting the full decision of the Supreme Court,” a board member said openly after coming out of executive session before explaining the termination vote would have to happen later because of the requested stay on the ruling.

Some, including State Superintendent Ryan Walters, believe the case should possibly be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court whose conservative and Catholic majority has been more accommodating to religious communities than previous majorities.

“We’re going to keep fighting for their ability to work as a charter school. There’s no reason they should not be allowed the ability to open a charter school. They’ve passed every test put before them. So, they should have that opportunity, and parents should have the opportunity to send their kids to school there,” Walters told FOX23 last month after the ruling came down.

So far the court has not responded to the request for a stay, but it has asked Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond to weigh in on the request before the end of the month so a hearing can take place. The board said openly it didn’t know Drummond had already drafted a position, but until more clarity comes down, it would hold off temporarily on terminating the contract.

Board members said during Monday’s meeting that the ruling last month signaled to the families of the 200 children enrolled in St. Isidore for the 2024-2025 school year that they needed to find other plans.

“Saint Isidore will not be opening in the 24-25 school year regardless. This board will not approve that,” a board member said.

The next meeting of the Statewide Charter School Board is Monday, August 12.

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