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Local & Regional

Tulsa-Area School Boards Approve Legal Action Against State Board Over Charter Funding Decision

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Oklahoma Watch
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Several Tulsa-area school boards voted Monday to let their districts' attorneys challenge the State Board of Education's decision to give charter schools an equal share of state funding.

The state board voted 4–3 last month to settle a lawsuit with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association claiming charter schools are due an equal share of state revenues. The board's resolution would let charter schools receive funding from state gross production, motor vehicle and rural electrification association tax collections, state school land earnings and county tax collections. Those revenues currently go only to traditional public schools.

Tulsa Public Schools joined the 2017 lawsuit as an intervenor, and the TPS Board voted Monday to let the district's attorneys file claims against the state board.

"Tonight's action stems from the state board's recent and unexpected vote to resolve the 2017 litigation and redistribute local and state-dedicated sources of revenue to charter schools, including virtual charter schools like Epic, effective July 1, 2021," a statement TPS released Monday night said.

The Jenks Public School Board also voted to let the district's attorney initiate legal action against the state board. Superintendent Dr. Stacey Butterfield told the board she does not think the district is right for every family but believes misinformation about the statewide funding formula was a factor in the state board's resolution.

"We cannot stand back and allow this action now to potentially affect Jenks Public Schools forever," Butterfield said.

Jenks board member Melissa Abdo said the board is responsible for protecting citizens' property tax dollars that go toward education.

"To have those local dollars diverted somewhere where taxpayers have no authority or no oversight on how that’s being used is just a gross misunderstanding of what’s intended by the constitution and by our state statute," Abdo said.

The boards for Owasso, Skiatook and Sapulpa public schools also authorized their attorneys to take legal action on Monday.

The Oklahoma City and Sand Springs public schools boards approved legal action last week. Dozens of local school boards across the state have said they will consider similar resolutions.

The Union Public Schools Board has not met since the state board's decision. The Union board's next meeting is April 19.

Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said last week the legislature needs to address the school funding issue before the end of session. Treat said it makes sense if local tax dollars go to charter schools that operate like traditional public schools.

"We need to figure out what is right on the fully virtual schools. They obviously do not incur transportation costs. They don’t have building costs," Treat said.

Rep. Kyle Hilbert (R-Bristow) said he will introduce legislation barring virtual charter schools from receiving building fund revenue.

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