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Oklahoma board settles 2017 suit seeking money for charters

March 26, 2021 GMT

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma State Board of Education voted to settle a lawsuit filed by charter schools seeking tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer money, fundamentally changing how the schools are funded in the state.

In a split 4-3 vote Thursday, board members moved to settle the 2017 lawsuit with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association

“My motion is to adopt a board resolution to equalize funding between all public schools and charter schools, thereby settling the lawsuit by the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association,” board member Trent Smith said.

Smith, along with fellow members Estela Hernandez, Brian Bobek and Jennifer Monies, voted in favor of settling the lawsuit.

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In July 2017, the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association sued the state Board of Education, claiming charter schools are due an equal share of revenues. The funds currently flow only to traditional public schools from Oklahoma’s gross production, motor vehicle and rural electrification association tax collections, state school land earnings and county tax collections.

The vote Thursday came against strong objections of State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and apparently the legal advice of the board’s own attorney.

“There are serious consequences to this unexpected vote, the most obvious of which is Epic and all statewide virtual charter schools will now receive millions of local dollars from ad valorum funds that are assessed to construct and maintain public school buildings,” Hofmeister said.

If the charter schools’ legal effort is ultimately successful, all traditional public schools stand to lose revenue, in turn determining how public education is funded.