Tue, 26 Sep 2023

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma: An Oklahoma school board has approved the application of the Catholic Church to establish the first religious charter school funded by taxpayers in the US.

Testing the US Constitution's concept of separation of church and state, opponents of the school have pledge to launch a legal challenge that promises to become a long court battle.

In a 3-2 vote, Oklahoma's Statewide Virtual Charter School Board approved the plan to create the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School.

In April, the board rejected the first plan submitted for the school, stating that they needed more details.

St. Isidore seeks to offer an online education for kindergarten through high school, initially for 500 students and eventually 1,500.

Board members have stressed that they were voting only on whether the application met the board's standards, and not on the constitutionality of such a school.

Charter schools are publicly funded, independently run schools established under the terms of a charter with a local or national authority.

Due to 6-3 conservative majority in the US Supreme Court that has taken an expansive view of religious rights, including in two rulings since 2020 concerning schools in Maine and Montana, Catholic Church officials have said they hope the case will reach the Supreme Court.

Over its first five years of operation, the school would cost Oklahoma taxpayers up to $25.7 million, organizers said.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City first proposed the idea of the school, and the law school at the Catholic University of Notre Dame in Indiana helped with the application.

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