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School board votes down Native American charter school

OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma City Public Schools board members have voted 7-1 to shelve the creation of a Native American charter school on Monday night.

Board members said they are not opposed to the premise of having an indigenous-focused school but thy are concerned the financials are not right at this time.

“We’ve got a great set of charters schools in this district," said board member Mark Mann. "We’ve had a lot of success with them, and we want to make sure we continue with that success.”

Native American leaders want to create Sovereign Community School, a 6-12 grade charter school that would incorporate native themes in all aspects of learning.

“This stuff is stuff that everyone should know. It's not just important for indigenous communities to care about things like tribal sovereignty and the role our tribes played not just in shaping our history but in shaping the sciences, in shaping math, in shaping literature," said Phil Gover, head of Sovereign. "We can create an educational curriculum that does all of those things.”

Oklahoma City has one of the highest per capita rates of native students in the country. Community leaders and child advocacy groups said it's important for parents to have choices.

“For a lot of parents, they haven’t had an option like this to have a school founded by indigenous school leaders and educators that would offer a culturally relevant education to Native American children," said Robert Ruiz of Scissortail Community Development. "So, for us and for our Native American parents, this is a very exciting and historical day.”

Opponents said schools like Sovereign would actually segregates the students.

“'If we give this, then the Latino students are going to want their own school and the black kids are going to want their own school. Aren’t you just segregating schools?' I've heard that word, segregated schools. Segregation is a system of oppression, and this is a system of choice," Gover said. "This is a system where parents get to opt in to hopefully give their kids an education that they want.”

Sovereign Community School can appeal the vote and continue their push to create the charter school.