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Judge allows lawsuit over religious charter school in Oklahoma to proceed

June 6, 2024
The suit contends that St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, set to open this summer, would violate the principle of separation of church and state.

A judge in Oklahoma has ruled that a lawsuit filed by taxpayers opposing state funding for a religious public charter school will be allowed to proceed.

The Oklahoman reports that after a lengthy hearing, Judge Richard Ogden said he would allow three of four claims made by the plaintiffs to move forward.

The defendants in the case – the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School, the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the Oklahoma state Board of Education and state schools Superintendent Ryan Walters – had asked Ogden to dismiss the case outright.

Ogden said he'll hear a motion by the plaintiffs in July for a restraining order to prevent state money from flowing to St. Isidore, starting July 24.

According to the St. Isidore website, faculty are to report on Aug. 1 and the first day of school is set for Aug. 12. For the 2024-25 school year, the school's capacity is listed at 500 students. The school says the state Education Department has accredited it, and that its teachers hope to give children "the opportunity to experience an excellent education rich in the Catholic intellectual tradition."

The Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board drew national attention when it voted 3-2 in June 2023 to approve the school's creation.

The Oklahoma Parent Legislative Action Committee, a non-partisan public school advocacy group, joined nine other parents, faith leaders and public education advocates in filing its lawsuit in July. They contend a Catholic charter school would contradict state law and asked a district judge to block St. Isidore from opening and receiving state funds.

At the center of the case is the question of whether charter schools are public or private.

Charter schools, as defined on the Oklahoma State Department of Education website, are "public schools that are allowed greater flexibility for greater accountability."

Attorneys for the defense argue, however, that St. Isidore is a private entity and that nothing in Oklahoma law prevents a private entity from operating a charter school. 

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy has been writing about education for American School & University since 1999. He also has reported on schools and other topics for The Chicago Tribune, The Kansas City Star, The Kansas City Times and City News Bureau of Chicago. He is a graduate of Michigan State University.

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