Oklahoma Charter Schools Sue Over State Funding Inequities

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The Oklahoma Public Charter School Association is suing the state Board of Education over inequities in funding.

The lawsuit filed this month requests that "funding between all public schools be equalized to assure equal education opportunities," The Okahoman reported.

"This issue has existed for years, but we've been patient," said Barry Schmelzenbach, president of the association and superintendent of Harding Fine Arts Academy charter school. "At this point, failing to act would be failing to speak for the students we serve."

Public schools are funded through several local, state and federal sources. Charter schools are mainly funded through state aid.

The association argues that charter schools are receiving hundreds of dollars less in state-issued funding than public schools.

Schmelzenbach said the suit doesn't provide a specific example of how the funding structure should be changed. But he said the Legislature has intended for both charter and public school students to receive about the same amount.

"We are looking for an equalization in funding for all public school students," Schmelzenbach said. "Right now we have a system where one public school student is valued less than another."

Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, said that while he understands the tough financial situation all schools face, he believes the funding formula is working as intended.

"I firmly believe that the state statute is being carried out as written," Hime said.

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The education board is expected to discuss the matter in a private meeting Thursday.

"We look forward to the legal process resolving these claims," said Brad Clark, an attorney for the state Board of Education.

Both parties are scheduled to give statements at a Sept. 21 hearing.

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