December 21, 2022

Mark Wingfield: Oklahoma could have nation’s first publicly funded Catholic charter schools

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Reporting for Baptist News Global, Mark Wingfield notes that the Catholic Church is already moving to take advantage of Oklahoma attorney general’s opinion that states must now give taxpayer money to private religious schools.

On Dec. 1, Attorney General John O’Connor — who is Catholic — and Solicitor General Zach West wrote a non-binding legal opinion that says a current state law blocking religious institutions and private sectarian schools from state funding of public charter school programs is unconstitutional and should not be enforced.

Already, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City “states it is willing to adhere to every jot and tittle of state law and intends to apply for a charter,” reported Andrew Spiropoulos, the Robert S. Kerr Professor of Constitutional Law at Oklahoma City University and the Milton Friedman Distinguished Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

That means for the first time, government funding for public schools could also flow to Catholic schools and other faith-based schools.

And that’s not good news to Charles Foster Johnson, who helped found the group Pastors for Oklahoma Kids.

“It’s perfectly fine for those Oklahoma charter schools to become religious schools if they no longer receive public tax dollars from the people of Oklahoma,” he said. “But the last thing the devout religious folks of Oklahoma need is for their state to entangle itself in the establishment of religion through the funding of religious schools masquerading as public charter schools. All true religion, whether in congregation or class room, is voluntary and free. It must remain unencumbered by state intrusion.”

Pastors for Texas Kids has noted that Oklahoma ranks 48th in the nation for per-student spending on public education. The state’s public schools serve 703,650 students, accounting for 93% of the school-age population.

The 15-page opinion from O’Connor and West responds to a request for clarification from Rebecca Wilkinson, executive director of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. She had asked for a ruling on whether her agency should continue to enforce the portion of state law that says an Oklahoma charter school must not be “affiliated with a nonpublic sectarian school or religious institution,” and must “be nonsectarian in its programs, admission policies, employment practices, and all other operations.”

Read the full story here. Oklahoma could have nation’s first publicly funded Catholic charter schools – Baptist News Global

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