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Oklahoma Supreme Court Blocks Nation’s First Religious Charter School

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has blocked what was set to become the nation’s first religious charter school, St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, dealing a major blow to a conservative wing advocating for public funding of religious education.

According to the New York Times, an appeal is likely and the case might reach the U.S. Supreme Court, whose conservative majority has shown openness to directing taxpayer money to religious schools.

St. Isidore was proposed as an online Catholic school for rural students in Oklahoma, with religious instruction integrated into the curriculum. Unlike private schools that charge tuition, St. Isidore aimed to operate as a charter school, funded by taxpayer dollars but run independently.

Charter schools are free to attend and funded by public money like traditional public schools, but are independently run, often without unionized teachers. However, the schools need to follow state curriculum and are still subject to regulations. They are designed to offer more options to families, with students able to enroll from any school zone.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled that a religious charter school would violate the state constitution. The court’s decision was made by a 6-2 vote.

Religious leaders at Oklahoma expressed disappointment over the decision and said they will consider all legal options to challenge the decision.

Supporters of St. Isidore said that excluding religious programs for an independent school would be discrimination.

However, several people maintain that charter schools are public schools and that they have no room for religious programs.

The Education Commission of the States, a nonprofit led by 300 appointed commissioners from across the country, defines that a charter school is in fact “semi-autonomous public schools that receive public funds.”

Recently, a conservative school choice movement has been pushing for religious state funded education. In Texas, lawmakers have pushed for allowing chaplains without professional training to provide mental health services in public schools, and have pushed for Gov. Greg Abbott vouchers proposal.

Despite vouchers being defeated in Texas, some other republican-led states have passed new laws supporting school vouchers, education savings accounts, and other school choice options.

RA Staff
RA Staff
Written by RA News staff.


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