Multiple Northeastern Oklahoma School Districts To Take Legal Action Against State Board Of Education

Tuesday, April 13th 2021, 1:55 pm
By: Amy Kauffman, Kristin Wells

TULSA, Oklahoma -

Tulsa Public Schools board of education decided Monday night join other districts and pursue legal action against the Oklahoma State Board of Education.

The action is after the State Board of Education settled a lawsuit with the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association and voted to give taxpayer money to charter schools.

Related Story: TPS Board Members To Discuss Possible Litigation Against State Board Of Education

Tulsa School Board Members voted unanimously to join a new lawsuit that said the state board needs to reverse its decision.

The state school board voted to settle a four-year long lawsuit with the Oklahoma Public Charter Schools Association that had argued public and charter schools should be funded the same way. The charter schools had claimed their schools should also get money from state funds like motor vehicle tax and gross production tax that go to traditional public schools.

The state board voted 4 to 3 in favor of funding charter schools.

Related Story: State Board Of Education Settles Lawsuit With Oklahoma Public Charter School Association

The settlement, announced on March 26, was applauded by Governor Kevin Stitt, but drew criticism from school districts across the state. Several Green Country superintendents disagree and now many local school boards are joining a lawsuit filed by Oklahoma Public Schools.

After the settlement was announced, TPS Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said she believes the decision was illegal and unethical.

Related Story: TPS Superintendent Calls Settlement With OPCSA ‘Relentless Attack’ On Public Education

Tulsa Public Schools issued a statement after the vote explaining their decision.

"Tonight the Tulsa Public Schools Board of Education voted to authorize the school district’s attorneys to file claims against the Oklahoma State Board of Education in the pending Oklahoma County district court case the district joined in 2017. Tonight's action stems from the State Board's recent and unexpected (4-3) vote to resolve the 2017 litigation and redistribute local and state-dedicated sources of revenue to charter schools, including virtual charter schools like Epic, effective July 1, 2021."

The district also released new numbers saying they've lost about 2,400 students to Epic since 2013.

Board members at Sapulpa and Jenks Public Schools also voted to join the lawsuit.

Sapulpa Public Schools issued the following statement, saying,

"The Sapulpa School Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to authorize the school district’s attorney to initiate legal action against the Oklahoma State Board of Education. The authorization is in response to the state board’s decision on March 25 to settle a lawsuit filed by the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association that will redistribute local and state revenue to charter schools."

Jenks Public Schools also issued a statement, saying,

"The actions of the State Board of Education on March 25, 2021 could significantly diminish funding for traditional public school districts. While we are hopeful this issue can be resolved without legal action, we have a responsibility to our students to do everything in our power to protect Jenks' taxpayer dollars used to create educational opportunities and preserve an exceptional learning environment here at JPS. We will join with other districts from across the state in an effort to ensure Jenks' taxpayer dollars are used to support Jenks Public Schools' students."

Claremore Public Schools also issued a statement, saying,

The Claremore Public Schools Board of Education voted to participate in a lawsuit seeking judicial review of the State School Boards unilateral decision to rewrite state law and direct the allocation and expenditure of local taxpayer funds. In this case, a non-elected administrative agency is attempting to usurp the elected Legislature’s role in appropriating funds. The proposed circumvention of legislative authority is scheduled to be effective July 2021. Our participation is not an attack on charter schools or the role they play in the education of Oklahoma students. Our decision is based on the sudden decision to attempt to settle a lawsuit that had been pending since 2017 by redirecting taxpayer funds authorized by voters and pledged to the support of local public schools. The legality and/or constitutionality of doing so is questionable. The ramifications of such a decision and the effect on all of public education should be considered, debated, and determined by judicial and/or legislative action, not by plurality decision by an administrative board meeting in executive session.  The manner and timing of this decision, at the very least, is questionable. . We feel that such an action deserves proper judicial and legislative review.