Oklahoma approves first religious charter school

The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board in Oklahoma has approved the establishment of a religious charter school.

St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School would be run by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa and would be the first fully publicly funded religious school in the United States. The school aims to be an online public charter school available to students from kindergarten through grade 12 across the state.

While charter schools are nothing new, a Catholic charter school is virtually unprecedented and is almost certain to trigger a constitutional battle due to the establishment clause in the Constitution.

The potential legal battle was referenced by the state’s attorney general, Gentner Drummond shortly after the vote.

“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. In doing so, these members have exposed themselves and the state to potential legal action that could be costly.”

Though many experts believe such a school would violate the Constitution, the conservative-led Supreme Court has ruled in favor of religion in several recent high-profile cases including ones related to schools and the establishment clause.

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