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Tipsheet

Red State to Consider Approving the First Religious Charter School in the U.S.

Matt Rourke

A state education board in Oklahoma will vote on whether to approve the country’s first religious charter school, The New York Times reported Tuesday. 

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the Diocese of Tulsa are seeking approval for an online charter school program to serve students who live in rural parts of the state and have no school choice options outside of the public school system in their towns. 

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The organizers of the school, St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, are seeking authorization as a charter school. Reportedly, if approved, this would make St. Isidore the first explicitly religious charter school in its curriculum. And, Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, supports it. 

The Times noted that the number of students enrolled in charter schools in the United States more than doubled between 2009 and 2019. Oklahoma has about 60, many of which are virtual and serve students in rural areas. 

In its application, St. Isidore said that students of all faiths or no faith would be welcome. If approved, the school would accept 500 students kindergarten through high school and start around fall of 2024. 

“We are taking what we have been doing in Catholic schools for over a century in Oklahoma and putting that online, so that we can bring this content to the folks out in the rural areas,” Brett Farley of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma told the outlet.

Townhall reported this year how Stitt is one of several Republican governors who is spearheading student-first education initiatives in the aftermath of COVID-19 lockdowns, which set America’s children back years in learning.

“It’s time to rethink education in Oklahoma,” Stitt said during his inaugural address this year. “It’s time for the tough conversations to address what’s working and what is not.” 

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“It’s time to teach kids how to think, not what to think. And that means, we must give students more access to learning methods that fit their unique needs. We need more schools — not less schools — like the fear mongers claimed when we called for change,” he said.

Stitt’s pick for superintendent of public instruction, Ryan Walters, was also elected, who ran on a platform promoting school choice. 

“The next four years my focus will ensure we are putting Oklahoma’s students first,” Walters said. “We will do what is best for the schools, students, parents, and teachers. I look forward to working with Governor Stitt, the Legislature and the State Board of Education to empower parents, increase teacher pay, protect girls’ sports, and keep the fundamentals of Oklahoma’s educational system at the forefront during my tenure.”

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