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Board chairman takes another stand against nation’s first religious charter school

Posted at 3:12 PM, Oct 16, 2023

TULSA, Okla. — One week after the Oklahoma Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved a contract with Saint Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, the board’s chair announced he will not sign off on the contract.

Dr. Bob Franklin of Tulsa has been against the religious charter school having public funding. He said St. Isidore doesn’t have a proper plan for Special Education services, and he’s concerned with the school’s relationship with the archdiocese.

However, ultimately, it’s against the law, the state constitution, and his oath of office.

“This is intended to land in court, and I don’t think it’s our job as board members to put us in that position,” he said. “Months from now, I don’t want to look back at a document that was signed and be a part of a historical piece that I felt was wrong.”

Whether it makes a difference is unclear, but Franklin said the board attorney tells him other board members signing the contract should suffice.
Franklin said he was not worried about any legal ramifications of signing the contract, but the plan has already prompted one lawsuit. Ten plaintiffs, including faith leaders and parents, filed a lawsuit trying to stop the school.

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond has said the school is in violation of the law. “Although those in the political narrative are saying ‘oh this is a great victory for liberty,’ in fact, it’s the opposite,” Drummond said of St. Isidore in June.

Drummond’s office is also reportedly looking into whether board member Brian Bobek’s vote was legitimate. Bobek was appointed to the board just in time for a vote on St. Isidore, and he may not be eligible to vote yet.

Franklin said he tried to convince St. Isidore officials to pursue becoming a private school to take advantage of the new tax credits for private schools. He said eliminating any legal wranglings could get the school up and running much more quickly.

“I have really tried to implore them to go down that pathway, but it’s really not of interest to them,” said Franklin.

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