CV NEWS FEED // Named after the patron saint of the internet, St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School is set to launch next fall as the first religious charter school in the United States.
Charter schools are independently operated from the public school system but are funded by taxpayer dollars. The new school would be operated by the Archdiocese of Oklahoma and the Diocese of Tusla.
The charter was approved in a 3-2 vote by the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board after a three-hour meeting. In April, the board rejected the initial proposal, with all five members voting no. But after the archdiocese filed an appeal and a new board member was appointed by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, the board approved the proposal.
“We are obviously excited that the board chose to pull our application and we’ve got a lot of great opportunities ahead of us,” said Brett Farley, executive director of Catholic Conference of Oklahoma and a future board member of the school. “We’re looking forward to taking advantage of those opportunities.”
Gov. Stitt, a vocal supporter of church-sponsored charter schools, issued a statement applauding the decision.
“This is a win for religious liberty and education freedom in our great state, and I am encouraged by these efforts to give parents more options when it comes to their child’s education,” Stitt said.
Already, the ruling has come under legal scrutiny with many opponents saying a religiously-funded charter school contradicts the state’s constitution. Republican Attorney General Gentner Drummond voiced his opposition to the board’s decision.
“The approval of any publicly funded religious school is contrary to Oklahoma law and not in the best interest of taxpayers,” Drummond said. “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.”
In recent years, the United States Supreme Court has issued rulings in favor of religious schools receiving government-funded scholarships or benefits if parents chose to send their child to a private institution. However, the Supreme Court has not been faced with determining the constitutionality of a religiously-sponsored charter school.
St. Isidore of Seville Virtual School is set to open in the fall of 2024, offering Kindergarten-through-12th grade classes to 500 students.