State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said, “I don’t know” when asked if she plans to sign a settlement agreement approved by the Board of Education last week.
The board voted 4-3 on Thursday to approve a settlement agreement to end a 2017 lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association. In the lawsuit, the association sought for state and local tax revenues to be collected by charter schools, which has not been permitted in state law since 2006.
Hofmeister voted against the settlement, which she called unconstitutional before it was ultimately approved.
“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,” she said during the Thursday board meeting.
According to the resolution approved by the board, the settlement would significantly change the state’s formula for funding public schools by allocating state and local funds to charter schools in addition to traditional public school districts.
According to the Oklahoma State School Boards Association, the funding change could shift more than $15 million to charter schools.
Sean McDaniel, superintendent at Oklahoma City Public Schools, said his district expects to lose millions under the new structure. He said the district was not aware of the settlement offer despite it being a party to the lawsuit.
“It's the way that the state board approached this, it's unacceptable,” McDaniel said.
On Tuesday, Hofmeister met with some lawmakers inside the state Capitol behind closed doors. She told News 9 afterward she does not have a plan to sign the settlement.
“Since it just came in, and I voted no, we’ll fully examine (the settlement),” she said. “This is all very rushed.”
Hofmeister said legal challenges to a recent vote by the Oklahoma Board of Education are “likely.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt, who appointed the members of the board of education, celebrated the approval of the settlement. During a news conference on Monday, he said charter schools have helped numerous parents navigate the pandemic.
“We believe that they (charter schools) deserve every access and every opportunity that everyone else does in the public school system here in Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “Charter schools are public schools.”
Rep. Mark McBride is a Moore Republican and the chair of the House budget & appropriations committee. He said the board may have not had the authority to bypass the legislature.
"It seems like there are special interest groups out there that want to, for some reason, tear down the education system that we currently have," McBride said.
Brad Clark, the general counsel at the Oklahoma State Department of Education, said a legal challenge to the settlement could come from a school district, the legislature or taxpayers.
“I think there’s a variety of entities or groups that might bring a challenge,” he said.
One of the board members who voted in favor of the settlement is also an administrator at an Oklahoma City charter school.
Jennifer Monies is a board member of John Rex Charter Elementary School, which is a member of the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association.
Monies did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
When asked if staff requested Monies recuse herself from the settlement vote, Clark denied to comment citing attorney-client privilege.