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A bill moving through the Legislature would revamp the way charter schools are approved and supervised in Oklahoma.

Senate Bill 516 would dissolve the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board and replace it with the Statewide Charter School Board. The new board would take over sponsorship of all the virtual schools and charter schools authorized by the state Board of Education. It could sponsor other brick-and-mortar charter schools, too.

The new board would consist of nine members: three appointed by the governor, two each chosen by the House and Senate leader, and the state superintendent of public instruction and state auditor and inspector filling the remaining two seats.

That would give the governor more influence on charter school decisions; currently, the governor gets one appointment to the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.

And instead of being funded through a percentage of the schools’ state aid, like the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, the new board would be an appropriated agency.

The bill, by Sen. Adam Pugh, R-Edmond, also includes changes to improve state oversight of charter schools, including governance and finance.

The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board instituted reforms at Epic Charter Schools in the fallout of a damning investigative audit and is now wrestling with a Catholic charter school application meant to test the courts’ willingness to allow public funding of religious schooling.

Another change to note: the proposal would also allow private Oklahoma colleges and universities to sponsor brick-and-mortar charters, which currently they can’t do. CareerTechs would no longer be able to act as sponsors.

The Senate approved Pugh’s bill 40 – 7 and this week, a House committee moved it forward. It can now be heard by the full House of Representatives.

Questions, comments, story ideas? I’d love to hear from you via email or direct message.

— Jennifer Palmer

What I’m Reading

  • All Oklahoma school districts will have to report to the Education Department information on sports they offer to prepare for a lawsuit against the Biden administration. [Tulsa World]
  • Bill would enshrine in state law Native American students’ right to wear tribal regalia at graduation. [McAlester News-Capital]
  • Educators worry divisive concepts laws in Oklahoma and other states will undermine efforts to teach Native American history. [The Hechinger Report]

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