CONTACT YOUR LEGISLATORS ON SCHOOL BOARD'S UNCONSTITUTIONAL OVERREACH
Yesterday, the State Board of Education surprisingly settled a four-year-old lawsuit that could give all charter schools access to local school property taxes.
OEA attorneys — along with education experts across the state — are still reviewing the board’s action. We will keep you updated. In the meantime, here’s what we know so far and what action we all must take.
After their regular meeting Thursday, the board met for four hours in executive session. They came back to their public meeting and approved a resolution saying they were settling a lawsuit with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association.
The State Board’s action could upend public school funding in Oklahoma, funneling millions of local property taxes to charter schools across the state, including virtual charters.
Here’s where OEA stands on this vote:
1. The State Board does not have the legal authority to change a state statute.
2. Changing how funding is given to charter schools is statutorily and constitutionally inappropriate as that is the prerogative of the state legislature.
3. Charter schools don't have to play by the same accountability rules as traditional public schools. For example, they don't have to provide transportation to students, can refuse students, don't have to hire certified teachers, and don't have to pay their teachers according to the State Minimum Salary Schedule.
The State Board of Education is composed of members appointed directly by the governor. They do not have the legal authority to change a state law. Creating laws and allocating tax dollars is the sole responsibility of the legislature — not an appointed state board.
State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, Carlisha Williams Bradley, and Bill Flanagan voted no.
Brian Bobek, Estela Hernandez, Jennifer Monies, and Trent Smith voted in favor of the settlement, and would force Oklahoma school districts to siphon millions of dollars in funds from their budget to charter and virtual charter schools.
There was no opportunity for input from the public and education professionals. No warning that this drastic change to public education funding was given to the people by the political appointees who made the decision.
It appears the state board is wanting to settle a lawsuit that will affect funding to public schools, contrary to the Oklahoma Constitution.
Superintendent Hofmeister is directly elected by the people of Oklahoma and said this before the vote:
“Based on legal advice, this violates Oklahoma statute, Oklahoma Constitution and the oath that I swore to uphold when I took office — and I do not support this nor do I think the board should vote to approve this settlement which came in yesterday.”
Here is Superintendent Hofmeister’s reaction following the vote:
“Today’s board action circumvents the will of the people of Oklahoma and the state legislature by unilaterally determining how public education is to be funded. I fear this action knowingly violated Oklahoma statute and the Oklahoma Constitution.
“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. Local tax revenue will be redistributed.
“This change is likely to have a seismic effect on school funding across the state,” she said, and “the ramifications on schoolchildren are yet to be fully understood."
WHAT HAPPENS NOW
Contact your local representative and state senator to let them know you are strongly against this unconstitutional pillaging of public school dollars away from their communities.
Our schools need our support, not another blow. Remind them they are not only your representative, they are your voice. When political appointees overreach into funding powers meant for lawmakers, they are silencing your voice.