A pro-charter school group has filed a lawsuit in hopes of increasing charter schools’ share of state and local education funding.

The state Board of Education plans to discuss the lawsuit at its regular meeting on Thursday. That portion of the meeting will be closed to the public because board members will be discussing pending litigation.

In the lawsuit, filed July 7 in Oklahoma County District Court, the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association accuses the state Board of Education of inequitably funding charter schools based on the per-student amount schools receive.

Charter schools are public schools of choice that are relieved of many state regulations but receive additional oversight from a sponsor, which can include a school district or university. In Oklahoma, charter schools are eligible for state formula aid, federal funds and private donations, but not local revenue such as ad valorem taxes. Charters can’t levy taxes or issue bonds, and many charter schools are housed in repurposed buildings such as shopping malls.

In its lawsuit, the association argues that a charter should be treated as a separate school district for the purposes of funding, so charters could receive local revenue as well as proceeds from gross production taxes and motor vehicle revenue, which they don’t currently receive.

The current setup means charters are required to provide an equitable education to students with fewer financial resources than traditional public schools, the association alleges.

The board, in its answer filed Tuesday, denies the allegations.

“We look forward to the legal process resolving these claims,” said Brad Clark, an attorney representing the board.

Charters are a growing school segment; there are currently 29 in Oklahoma. Two charter schools closed in 2017, including Lighthouse Charter School in south Oklahoma City, which struggled financially.

In some other states, charter schools receive extra funding to compensate for the lack of local revenue. For instance, Arizona gives charter schools equal access to state funds, plus additional assistance, and in California, charter schools are eligible for a transfer of funds from their sponsoring school district in lieu of property taxes, according to the Education Commission of the States.


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Jennifer Palmer

Jennifer Palmer has been a reporter with Oklahoma Watch since 2016 and covers education. Contact her at (405) 325-2084 or jpalmer@oklahomawatch.org. Follow her on Twitter @jpalmerOKC