OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A new board member created controversy over Monday’s vote for the nation’s first religious charter school, voting to approve the application even after the Chairman asked him not to.
It was a vote with national attention.
Oklahoma became the first state in the country to approve a religious, taxpayer funded charter school.
The vote was 3-2 in favor of the school’s application.
One of the three supporting votes was from Brian Bobek.
In his remarks during the meeting, he read from a script, and cited US Supreme Court decisions as his reasoning for the vote.
“As a board member I am duly bound to support and defend the United States Constitution which in my view leads to a single conclusion in this instance that I must vote yes in favor of the application,” said Bobek.
Monday was Bobek’s first day on the job, and the chairman asked him not to vote.
“I respectfully ask that Friday’s newly appointed board member Mr. Bobek abstain from today’s vote,” said Dr. Robert Franklin, former Chairman of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board.
Bobek ignored the request and voted anyway.
He was sworn in hours before the vote and appointed just three days prior.
“That’s very unsettling, very unsettling to have that kind of injection,” said Franklin, when asked after the meeting about Bobek’s recent appointment.
Bobek declined to comment Monday and could not be reached Tuesday.
Franklin was concerned about the appointment because Barry Beauchamp, the previous board member who’s term had expired several months before, had committed to continue serving the board.
“Mr. Beauchamp had said he was more than willing to serve if reappointed,” said Franklin.
Barry Beauchamp was not at Monday’s meeting.
His position is appointed by the Speaker of the House.
On the phone Tuesday, Franklin said the board notified the appointing office months ago when Beauchamp’s term expired.
When asked about the delay in filling that appointment, and the timing so close to a critical vote, the Speaker’s office stated it had to do with a busy schedule.
“Feb. through May the Speaker’s focus is on session, policy and budget,” said Daniel Seitz, Speaker McCall’s spokesperson in a text.
It wasn’t only Franklin, but even the Attorney General’s office questioned Bobek’s appointment.
In a memo to Franklin and Rebecca Wilkinson, Virtual Charter School Board’s Executive Director, the AG’s office said, “there was not a vacancy to warrant the immediate placement of Mr. Bobek on the Board.”
“Accordingly, it is my opinion that pursuant to 51 O.S. § 15, Mr. Beauchamp should continue serving until his successor, Mr. Bobek, is duly qualified on November 1 pursuant to the provisions of 70 O.S. § 3-145.1(B),” said Niki Batt, Deputy Attorney General.
It is unclear what will happen moving forward with Bobek’s appointment.
At the end of the meeting, before the members adjourned, Dr. Franklin resigned from his position as chairman. He said it was not about Monday’s vote, but instead to focus on his career.
“I think my next step is really going to be from a statewide perspective about policy and about figuring out how to support teachers and students and families in an unbiased way,” said Franklin.
He was disappointed by the overall outcome of the meeting.
“I guess I lost a little hope and a little faith in what probably should have been the right thing,” said Franklin.