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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education met in executive session Friday evening and passed a resolution 7-0 demanding that the Oklahoma State Board of Education (SBE) rescind their narrow vote to equalize funding of Oklahoma’s public school districts and charter schools.

Four of Governor Kevin Stitt’s appointees to the board voted to settle a 2017 lawsuit over school funding essentially taking sides with the parties suing the SBE. The SBE resolution March 25 calls for giving equal amounts of money per student to charter schools as public school districts gets in the state apportionment of funds and from local taxes.

A part of the OKCPS resolution calls the SBE vote on March 25 “overreaching, illegal, and unconstitutional.”

Taxpayer funding of public school districts is established in the original Oklahoma Constitution and is set by the Oklahoma Legislature. The move by the four appointed board members attempts an end-run around the Constitution and the Legislature.

Earlier in the week, the district’s legal counsel filed a petition for an injunction to stop any actions from being taken in regards to public school district and charter school funding while public school districts formed a legal challenge to the move.

To learn more: OKCPS files legal challenge to Ok Board of Ed over charter school funding

If left to stand, the 4-3 vote by the SBE will result in millions of taxpayer dollars being transferred to charter schools often managed by private, for-profit companies, the largest of which continues to resist accountability to the state for how those tax dollars were spent.

The four State Board members who forced the settlement were all appointees of Governor Kevin Stitt. They voted for the settlement in spite of strenuous objections from Oklahoma State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and their own legal counsel.

“Reckless and unacceptable”

Free Press contacted OKCPS Board member Carrie Jacobs and asked why she voted for their resolution.

“The State Board of Education has shown it has no interest in following the rule of law or acting in the best interest of public education,” Jacobs wrote in a message. “Their decision will hurt all public schools in Oklahoma, especially Oklahoma City. Their vote was reckless and unacceptable.”

“We’ve been battling this issue for four years, and our board reaffirmed that we continue to stand up for the students, voters, and taxpayers of Oklahoma City Public Schools,” Jacobs continued. “That’s what we were elected to do. The State Board of Ed is loyal only to the governor who appointed them.”

Board chair candidate missing

All seven of the board members present voted for this measure. There are eight members of the board. District 1 board member Charles Henry did not attend or participate.

Henry is a candidate for the board chair position running against Paula Lewis, the incumbent.

Free Press sent a text message, email, and also left a voicemail asking why he did not attend. By publication time Henry had not responded. If he responds later, we will update this story.

The resolution

The following is the whole of the resolution passed 7-0 Friday:

RESOLUTION

At a duly called meeting of the Board of Education of Independent School District No. 89 of Oklahoma County (“District”) held on Friday, April 2, 2021, the following Resolution was introduced and adopted by the approval of a majority of the members of the Board of Education:

WHEREAS, on July 7, 2017, Oklahoma Public Charter School Association (“OPCSA”), filed an Emergency Petition for Declaratory Judgment and Writ of Mandamus against the Oklahoma State Board of Education (“SBE”) in the District Court of Oklahoma County, Case No. CV-2017-1330, seeking a declaratory judgment that charter schools have not been properly funded in accordance with the requirements of Oklahoma law and requesting a writ of mandamus directing SBE to equalize funding between charter schools and public school districts;

WHEREAS, on November 3, 2017, the District Court of Oklahoma County ruled that District and Tulsa Public Schools should be allowed to intervene in the case;

WHEREAS, on Thursday, March 25, 2021, SBE met in executive session to discuss this pending litigation. Upon returning to the open session portion of the meeting, SBE Board member Trent Smith made a motion to adopt a broadly overreaching board resolution regarding funding between all public schools and charter schools and settle the lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association. SBE voted 4 to 3 to adopt the resolution;

WHEREAS, State Superintendent of Instruction, Joy Hofmeister, voted against the motion and advised the other members of SBE that she believed, based on legal advice, that such action violated the Oklahoma Statutes, the Oklahoma Constitution, and her oath of office. Superintendent Hofmeister stated that the action of SBE circumvents the will of the people and the state legislature by unilaterally determining how public education is to be funded;

WHEREAS, a draft of a proposed resolution reflects that SBE’s action will result in local sources of revenue, such as ad valorem taxes levied for the benefit of a school district’s general fund and building fund, being provided to charter schools, despite the fact that the Oklahoma Constitution provides that such levies are only for the benefit of “school districts” as opposed to charter schools and despite the fact that the proposed settlement does not involve District or Tulsa Public Schools; and

WHEREAS, District is funded by taxpayer dollars appropriated by the State of Oklahoma and funds raised through local tax levies, including but not limited to, general fund and building fund levies provided in the Oklahoma Constitution for school districts and will suffer significant impact to its financial resources if the proposed settlement of the case is implemented as approved by SBE;

WHEREAS, District’s Board of Education on October 23, 2017, approved a motion to authorize legal counsel to represent the District’s interest in Oklahoma County District Court Case No. CV-2017-1330;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED as follows:

  1. Due to the overreaching, illegal, and unconstitutional nature of the action by the State Board of Education, District’s Board of Education demands that the State Board of Education lawfully meet and rescind the action of March 25, 2021 adopting a resolution to equalize funding between all public schools and charter schools and to settle the lawsuit with OPSCA; and
  2. The District’s Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent and District’s legal counsel to pursue appropriate actions against the State Board of Education or any other entities, organizations, or persons in any pending litigation or any new litigation.

Last Updated April 3, 2021, 8:33 AM by Brett Dickerson – Editor