School Choice & Charters

Oklahoma Charter Schools Granted Local Tax Revenue in ‘Seismic’ Settlement

By Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman — March 26, 2021 3 min read
This July 19, 2019 photo shows an Epic Charter Schools office in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted Thursday in favor of an agreement with the state's public charter school association to settle a 2017 lawsuit.

A groundbreaking settlement will fundamentally change the way charter schools are funded in Oklahoma, despite vehement opposition from the state’s top education official.

The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted 4-3 on Thursday in favor of an agreement with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association to settle a 2017 lawsuit.

The charter school association called the agreement a “tremendous step” for equality in school funding.

State schools Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the settlement could violate state law and have “seismic” implications by redistributing school funding.

“Today’s board action circumvents the will of the people of Oklahoma and the state legislature by unilaterally determining how public education is to be funded,” Hofmeister said in a statement Thursday evening. “I fear this action knowingly violated Oklahoma statute and the Oklahoma Constitution.”

The agreement will allow charter schools to receive local tax dollars previously unavailable to them, such as property taxes and motor vehicle taxes, in proportion to their student attendance. There are 81,000 students attending Oklahoma charter schools.

This agreement would bring charter schools on nearly equal footing with the way traditional public school districts are funded and could drive hundreds of dollars more per student to charter schools.

However, charter schools still would lack the ability to issue bonds or levy taxes. The settlement does not include back pay to charter schools.

The decision potentially could generate millions of local tax revenue to statewide virtual charter schools, Hofmeister said. The state’s largest virtual charter school system, Epic Charter Schools, is already booming with state funds because of spiking enrollment.

Charter schools and virtual charter schools are public schools that have more freedom over their curricula and are subject to extra oversight. Families must choose to enroll in charter schools, unlike traditional school districts where students are automatically zoned.

Hofmeister said the settlement offer was made a day before the board’s Thursday meeting.

“I do not support this nor do I think the board should vote to approve this settlement, which came in yesterday,” Hofmeister said during the board meeting.

Board members Estela Hernandez, Brian Bobek, Trent Smith, and Jennifer Monies voted in favor of the settlement. Carlisha Williams-Bradley and Bill Flanagan joined Hofmeister in voting against it.

The board discussed the details of the agreement in a private meeting and voted publicly on the issue without reading or summarizing the settlement. The Oklahoman later obtained the full text of the agreement.

The president of the Oklahoma Public Charter Schools Association, Chris Brewster, praised the board’s decision. Brewster is the superintendent of the Santa Fe South Schools charter district.

“This settlement is a tremendous step toward funding equity for the students who attend our state’s public charter schools,” Brewster said in a statement. “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.”

The charter school association sued the state board in Oklahoma County District Court in 2017, demanding charter schools have access to the same local revenues that fund traditional public schools.

Charter schools have been funded through state aid dollars and federal funding with no revenue from local tax sources.

The charter school association argued the difference in funding opportunities meant public school districts could receive hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars more per student.

Copyright (c) 2021, The Oklahoman. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
Meeting the Moment: Accelerating Equitable Recovery and Transformative Change
Educators are deciding how best to re-establish routines such as everyday attendance, rebuild the relationships for resilient school communities, and center teaching and learning to consciously prioritize protecting the health and overall well-being of students
Content provided by Campaign for Grade-Level Reading
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
Addressing Learning Loss: What Schools Need to Accelerate Reading Instruction in K-3
When K-3 students return to classrooms this fall, there will be huge gaps in foundational reading skills. Does your school or district need a plan to address learning loss and accelerate student growth? In this
Content provided by PDX Reading

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School Choice & Charters How the Pandemic Helped Fuel the Private School Choice Movement
State lawmakers got a new talking point as they pushed to create and expand programs to send students to private schools.
8 min read
Collage showing two boys in classroom during pandemic wearing masks with cropped photo of feet and arrows going in different directions.
Collage by Gina Tomko/EducationWeek (Images: Getty)
School Choice & Charters Opinion Taking Stock After 30 Years of Charter Schools
Rick Hess speaks with Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, on charter schools turning 30.
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School Choice & Charters In Fight Over Millions of Dollars for Charter Schools, a Marijuana Tax May Bring Peace
The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted unanimously to rescind a polarizing lawsuit settlement, pending certain stipulations.
Nuria Martinez-Keel, The Oklahoman
3 min read
Money bills cash funds close up Getty
Getty
School Choice & Charters Full-Time Virtual Schools: Still Growing, Still Struggling, Still Resisting Oversight
Nearly 500,000 students now attend full-time online and blended schools, says a new report from the National Education Policy Center.
6 min read
Student attending class from a remote location.
E+