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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Is a religious charter school kosher?

Oklahoma is considering approval of the first religious charter school in the U.S., reports Andrea Eger in Tulsa World. A state board is expected to rule in March.

St. Isadore of Seville Catholic Virtual School, named for the patron saint of the internet, hopes to provide online instruction and curriculum in small towns that don't have enough students for a traditional school. In addition, plans calls for offering online courses to existing schools in hard-to-staff subjects such as foreign languages, advanced math, technology and other electives, writes Eger.

Isidore wrote a 7th-century encyclopedia of knowledge.

“We think we can be a fully Catholic school — Catholic in every way: Catholic in teaching, Catholic in employment — and take public funding,” said Brett Farley, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma.

Oklahoma law requires charter schools to be “nonsectarian,” notes Mark Walsh in Education Week. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently that state-funded education programs open to secular private schools can't discriminate against faith-based schools.

In an opinion published in December 2022, the Oklahoma attorney general's office concluded that the state's charter law discriminates against religious schools, violating the First Amendment, and should not be enforced.

Whether charter schools are "state actors" or private is the key issue, says Nicole Stelle Garnett, an associate dean and professor at University of Notre Dame Law School, who consulted on the St. Isidore application. "The answer may vary among the more than 40 states that allow charter schools based on differences in state charter school laws and other case law."

Republican-led states are passing or considering "sweeping new vouchers laws that would plet every family use public funds to pay for private school," write Laura Meckler and Hannah Natanson in the Washington Post.

Last year, Arizona created what activists consider a model program: Every child who forgoes public school for private programs, including religious schools, is eligible for a taxpayer-funded payment worth $7,000 — almost as much as the state sends to public schools per student.
In January, Iowa and Utah followed suit, creating their own universal programs. GOP governors in Arkansas, South Carolina, Virginia and Oklahoma have listed these programs among their top priorities for 2023.

In the past, voucher-like scholarships were limited in scope. Only parents of children with disabilities or very low-income families could participate. The new programs are open to nearly everyone. or "Education savings accounts" (ESAs) can be used to fund homeschooling.

In the past, suburban parents, satisfied with their children's schools, saw no need to fund alternatives, said Rick Hess, director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. But that changed during the pandemic.

The political strategy has shifted from "We have to give vouchers to kids trapped in lousy schools," to "All kinds of families should have options,” Hess said. That makes it easier to build coalitions.

3 Σχόλια

05 Απρ 2023

<i>Last year, Arizona created what activists consider a model program: Every child who forgoes public school for private programs, including religious schools, is eligible for a taxpayer-funded payment worth $7,000</i>

That won't get a student into the Sidwell Friends school of Arizona.

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
16 Φεβ 2023

The general trend towards educational freedom (a statue of which, in Belgium, is my icon, seen next to my name) is a good one, but I think Arizona's regulation is excessively liberal, and prefer Iowa's instead, with vouchers going towards tuition at accredited schools.

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15 Φεβ 2023

Here in Indiana, there used to be a thing called a "Public Parochial School" -- they tended to be in small towns which were entirely one religion (usually Catholic or Lutheran). They were funded as public schools, the Catholic ones were staffed by nuns, they had daily Mass and Religion classes. (Non-Catholic kids could go to the library). It was a compromise for areas where, if there had been both a public and a Catholic school, no one would have used the Public school. They've died out, but their successor public schools still often let kids start the day with Mass at the nearby church if they choose, and have "pull out religion class" a few times a week whe…

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