Guthrie school board to consider legal action against state board of education

The Guthrie Board of Education will consider legal action against the Oklahoma State Board of Education after the state board altered school funding with public and charter schools.

Guthrie could join several other traditional public school districts across the state to address the equalization of funding. Last week, Oklahoma City Public Schools voted to approve a resolution in support of a lawsuit against the state board. The same resoultion Guthrie and many other districts have or will consider.

On March 25, the state school board voted 4-3 on a resolution to equalize funding for all charter schools and public schools following a 2017 lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association. The suit alleged the state didn’t fairly fund charter schools – schools that are public schools students can opt into attending, which are overseen by a sponsor and free from some state regulations.

State school board member Trent Smith, who was appointed to the position in January by Gov. Kevin Stitt, made the motion to approve and voted yes along with members Brian Bobek, Estella Hernandez and Jennifer Monies.

Monies also serves on the John Rex Charter School board.

State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who is a voting member of the board, strongly objected to the approved motion.

“This violates Oklahoma statute, the Oklahoma Constitution and the oath I swore to uphold when I took office,” she said just prior to the 4-3 vote.

She added, “There are serious consequences to this unexpected vote, the most obvious of which is Epic and all statewide virtual charter schools will now receive millions of local dollars from ad valorem funds that are assessed to construct and maintain public school buildings. Local tax revenue will be redistributed. This change is likely to have a seismic effect on school funding across the state, the ramifications on school children are yet to be fully understood.”

Alicia Priest with the Oklahoma Education Association said the action would be about $500 per student that would go from a traditional public school to a charter school. She added charter schools don’t have the same requirements as public schools, such as for hiring or transportation.

According to one report, there are 81,739 Oklahoma students enrolled in a charter school, 11.8% of the total student population. About 60,000 attend Epic Charter Schools.

Oklahoma Public Charter School Association President Chris Brewster, who was surprised at the timing of the approval, applauded the state board’s decision in a statement.

“This settlement is a tremendous step toward funding equity for the students who attend our state’s public charter schools,” Brewster, the superintendent of Santa Fe South charter school, said. “We pursued this action based on the belief that our students deserve the same educational opportunities and funding as their peers who attend traditional public schools. It is fundamentally unfair for districts to receive funding for students who do not attend their schools. This settlement rights that wrong.”

He continued, “Whether traditional, charter, private or homeschool, we must all work together to do the important job of educating our children.”

Stitt said he commends the state board for its lawful decision to uphold current statute.

“This decision is the right one for Oklahoma students. The COVID pandemic has shown us that students learn in a variety of different ways and there is no one-size-fits-all school for every student. Public school students should not be punished for succeeding in a charter school setting. Further, existing statute makes clear that charter schools are eligible for local revenues.”

The local school board is expected to consider the legal option following an executive session at Monday’s board meeting set for 6:30 p.m.


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