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Oklahoma attorney general sues to stop state from authorizing a religious charter school

Oct. 23, 2023
Atty. Gen. Gentner Drummond filed the suit after the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board ignored his warning that the planned charter school would violate the state and U.S. constitutions.

Oklahoma’s Attorney General has sued to stop a state board from establishing and funding what would be the nation’s first religious public charter school.

The Associated Press reports that Atty. Gen. Gentner Drummond filed the suit after the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board ignored his warning that the planned charter school would violate both the state and U.S. constitutions.

The members of the state's charter school board have signed a contract for the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School, which is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

“Make no mistake, if the Catholic Church were permitted to have a public virtual charter school, a reckoning will follow in which this state will be faced with the unprecedented quandary of processing requests to directly fund all petitioning sectarian groups,” the lawsuit states.

The school board voted 3-2 in June to approve the Catholic Archdiocese’s application to establish the online public charter school, which would be open to students across the state in kindergarten through grade 12. 

A group of Oklahoma parents, faith leaders and a public education nonprofit already have filed a lawsuit in district court seeking to stop St. Isidore from operating as a charter school in Oklahoma. That case is pending.

Oklahoma’s Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who earlier this year signed a bill that would give parents public funds to send their children to private schools, including religious schools, criticized Drummond’s lawsuit as a “political stunt.”

The attorney general’s lawsuit suggests that the board’s vote could put at risk more than $1 billion in federal education dollars that Oklahoma receives that require the state to comply with federal laws that prohibit a publicly funded religious school.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, a nonprofit organization that supports the public charter school movement, has released a statement in support of Drummond’s challenge.

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