Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, released the following statement on the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approval of an application from the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.
“Today, the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved an application for the nation’s first religious charter school. This decision runs afoul of state law and the U.S. Constitution. All charter schools are public schools, and as such must be non-sectarian. Charter schools were conceived as, and have always been, innovative public schools that provide an alternative for families who want a public school option other than the one dictated by their ZIP code.
“The Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City’s application to open St. Isidore, a Catholic virtual school, will undoubtedly be met with legal challenges because charter schools are defined as public, non-sectarian schools. The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City is trying to make charter schools into something they are not. We stand ready to support charter school advocates on the ground in Oklahoma as they fight to preserve the public nature of these unique schools and protect the religious and civil rights of the students and teachers who choose them.
“Public schools cannot teach religion, require attendance at religious services, or condition enrollment or hiring based on religious beliefs. While a sectarian organization may be permitted to operate a charter school, that school must remain a nonsectarian, open enrollment non-discriminatory public school.”