OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The chairman of the Statewide Virtual Charter School board said he would not sign the contract allowing the nation’s first religious online charter school because it was “unconstitutional.” Dr. Robert Franklin said he was adamant that the school, paid for by Oklahoma tax dollars, was not legal.
“I signed an oath that said I would uphold the state’s constitution. And this contract I feel violates that,” said Franklin. “It also violates the charter school law.”
The board voted 3-2 on October 9 to allow the contract for St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School to move forward.
The board’s protocol has always been for the chairman to sign off on decisions like these, but Franklin said he would not put his name on what he called a “historic document” that could shift the landscape of Oklahoma schools.
“I’m not trying to be obstinate. I’m not trying to make it unreasonable,” said Franklin. “It just didn’t feel right from a place to sign that document for the changes in the landscape of Oklahoma schools.”
The Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma told News 4 Tuesday that they signed the contract and were not waiting on the board to move forward, stating that their next step was “to continue the process of building the school in preparation for our planned launch in the Fall of 2024.”
The five-member board voted 3-2 back in June to allow the catholic online school’s application. There have been concerns about whether or not that vote was legal.
The newest board member, Brian Bobek, voted for the application. He had been appointed by House Speaker Charles McCall only days before the vote.
Franklin said the next steps to approve the contract could get complicated.
“I suspect the three signatures of the folks that voted for it would suffice,” said Franklin. “Together, perhaps, those signatures will have the attorney sign a proxy.”
The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office has been watching this decision closely since talks of the religious online school surfaced.
“The Attorney General has maintained that the proposed school violates the state and U.S. Constitutions,” said Phil Backarach, spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office.