Oklahoma allows first-ever religious charter school in US

  • 26% of voters: State Board of Education should decide what students learn
  • Critic: "Public schools designed to teach secular, not religious education"
  • Board member took oath to uphold constitution, feels he is with 'yes' vote

OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (NewsNation) — The first publicly funded Catholic charter school in the U.S. was approved in Oklahoma — possibly one of the biggest decisions in a nationwide push to incorporate more religion in public schools and renew the debate over who has the final say regarding what students learn.

The Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School’s application on Monday after being voted against back in April.

Now, the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa will oversee it.

Some groups have already indicated that they will challenge this approval, saying it violates the separation of church and state.

Three of the five members of the charter school board believe differently.

“I took an oath to follow the United States Constitution of the United States of America to the best of my ability and I am going to do that in this vote. Which is a yes vote,” Dr. Scott Strawn said. “I would like to formally move that we consider this application from St. Isidore.”

The state superintendent and the governor of Oklahoma supported the approval.

This is the latest decision in a broader push among conservative lawmakers nationwide to incorporate more religion in public schools. Part of the reason is thanks to a Supreme Court decision last summer that overturned part of the “Lemon Test,” which determines whether a government law or action violates the First Amendment.

In Texas, a bill requiring the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every classroom made significant progress in the state legislature but ultimately didn’t become law.

However, in Utah, one school district banned the Bible from its bookshelves while it considers one parent’s complaint about violence and vulgarity.

All of this has raised the question of who should have the final say on what students learn in schools.

An exclusive NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ poll found that when it comes to deciding what gets taught in public schools, 26% of voters said the State Board of Education should have the final authority. However, 25% of voters said they believe parents should have the ultimate authority over what their children learn in schools.

“Public schools are designed to impart secular, not religious education. We have a lot of religions in the United States. Parents can teach them to their kids at home but the public school system isn’t a good vehicle for that,” Rob Boston with Americans United for Separation of Church and State said.

The charter school in Oklahoma would reportedly open in the fall of 2024 and offer online classes to about 500 students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade.


Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending on NewsNation