The attack by Oklahoma Republican theocrats on public education continues apace, with evidence that faulty education might be behind their actions. Last week, in a 3-2 vote, the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board agreed to give state money to the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School.
Article II, Section 5 of the Oklahoma State Constitution – in the State’s Bill of Rights – states:
“No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.”
Anyone who can read that and then vote to give state money to SISVCS needs a course in remedial reading. “No public money” means “No public money.”
Attorney General Gentner Drummond – a Republican with reading skills – says the action “is contrary to Oklahoma law and not in the best interest of taxpayers.”
Drummond added, “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.”
Both Gov. Kevin Stitt and State Supt. Ryan Walters advocate state-funding for religious indoctrination – displaying their own deficient reading skills. And, of course, the melding of religion and government is one of Lawrence Britt’s 14 Characteristics of Fascism.
KFOR-TV reported, “Following the vote, the board’s chairman Dr. Robert Franklin stepped down.
He said, “We just stepped right back into a trap,” said Franklin. “I would like to say that I was surprised. I was anticipating that the convictions by which we’d signed oaths to follow the constitution of the state of Oklahoma and the new Charter school act that was just literally signed today by the governor, which says very clearly in that provision that we shouldn’t. But we did.”
By the end of the week we learned that other board members will lose their jobs within a year as its functions are merged into the state’s Charter School Board.
So, are the board members who approved this action illiterates or do their sacred oaths mean nothing?
Julia Conley of Common Dreams detailed the problem:
“The school would be entirely government-funded, but like other charter schools—which have been criticized by public education advocates—it would be independently managed, in this case by the Catholic archdiocese and diocese.”
Conley cites Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, as saying: “It’s hard to think of a clearer violation of the religious freedom of Oklahoma taxpayers and public-school families than the state establishing the nation’s first religious public charter school….
“In a country built on the principle of separation of church and state, public schools must never be allowed to become Sunday schools.”
Her group and the American Civil Liberties plan to file suits against this violation of the State Constitution – which AG Drummond predicted earlier.
Three members of this Board, Stitt and Walters should be made to pay personally for Oklahoma’s cost of the resulting litigation.
That’s right, along with taking money from public schools, this reckless decision by the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board will cost Oklahomans more money to defend its obviously unconstitutional action.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)