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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The Putnam City Schools (PCS) district Board of Ed voted Friday to take legal action against the Oklahoma State Board of Education (OKBOE) to stop the transfer of millions from public school districts to charter schools across the state.

The PCS Board said in their resolution that the 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….”

Abrupt OKBOE action

On March 25 a group of four appointees of Governor Kevin Stitt abruptly forced the settlement of a lawsuit that was still in the negotiating phase.

The lawsuit against the OKBOE was to force equalizing funding between Oklahoma’s Public School Districts established by Oklahoma’s Constitution and charter schools established by the Legislature.

Both State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, who was elected by a statewide vote, and the OKBOE legal counsel strongly objected.

Metro big three opposed

PCS was the last of the three biggest public school districts in the metro to join the effort of more than 100 public school districts to reverse the OKBOE actions.

March 31, Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education (OKCPS-BOE) voted to file for an injunction to immediately stop any actions from being taken and then to file a lawsuit against the OKBOE.

In their next meeting, the OKCPS-0BOE passed a resolution calling for the state board to rescind their earlier vote to settle the lawsuit.

Edmond Public Schools voted April 19 to engage in legal efforts to stop the State Department of Education from taking action on the vote of the majority of the OKBOE.

Superintendent Bret Towne described the settlement as “extremely harmful to traditional school districts.”

“It does not even differentiate between brick and mortar charter schools and virtual charters. It’s difficult to conceptualize the need for virtual charter schools to have access to other district’s building funds. Edmond could lose between $500,000 and $600,000 yearly from our building fund if the settlement is upheld.”

PCS resolution

The following is the whole of the PCS Board of Ed resolution passed Friday:

WHEREAS, on July 7, 2017, the 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; and

WHEREAS, the foregoing lawsuit has been ongoing since; and

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

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; and

WHEREAS, the Resolution adopted by SBE 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

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 financial impact if the proposed settlement approved by SBE is implemented;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED as follows:

  1. District’s Board of Education authorizes the Superintendent and District’s legal counsel to pursue appropriate actions including litigation against the State Board of Education or any other appropriate entities, organizations, or persons regarding the State Board of Education’s actions of March 25, 2021. [There were no other resolved points in the PCS news release.]

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Last Updated April 25, 2021, 9:02 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor