The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board in Oklahoma has approved the application of the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma to establish the St. Isidore of Seville Virtual Charter School, which would be the first taxpayer-funded religious school in the US .

The online public charter school would offer a curriculum that integrates Catholic teachings into subjects such as reading and math, and would be open to students from kindergarten to grade 12 across the state . The school is expected to open in late 2024 with an initial enrollment of 500 students.

The approval of the religious charter school has sparked controversy and criticism from various groups and officials who argue that it violates the separation of church and state and the Oklahoma Constitution, which prohibits the use of public funds for sectarian purposes .

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond has called the decision “unconstitutional” and warned that it could lead to costly legal action . Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a non-profit advocacy group, has also announced its intention to “take all possible legal action to fight this decision and defend the religious freedom of Oklahoma taxpayers and public-school families”.

However, supporters of the religious charter school have hailed it as a victory for religious liberty and educational choice in Oklahoma.

Governor Kevin Stitt, a Republican who has signed a bill that would give parents a tax incentive to send their children to private schools, including religious schools, has praised the board’s vote as “a win for religious liberty and education freedom in our great state” and said he was “encouraged by these efforts to give parents more options when it comes to their child’s education” . Brett Farley, the executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, has expressed his elation that the board agreed with their argument and application for the nation’s first religious charter school.

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