After two weeks of excellent reporting, the Tulsa World’s Andrea Eger has raised questions about whether the Oklahoma Public Charter School Association (OPCSA) has been working to settle its lawsuit with the state Board of Education. The World published the four-page “agreement” in the charter-funding lawsuit on Friday.
As Eger explained Nov. 3, Oklahoma City (OKCPS) and Tulsa (TPS) “willingly sponsor most of the state’s 28 charter school districts.” The funding of this system was laid out 18 years ago and has been updated since then. Charters claimed this past summer, however, that everyone has been misreading the language of the law. Subsequently, the OPCSA filed suit against the state’s largest two districts in July.
As outlined in the embedded document below, the potential settlement between OPCSA and the BoE would potentially direct an estimated $1 million or more to charter schools and away from the OKCPS and TPS each during the first year. School patrons should also note other details in the potential agreement, such as a mandate for districts to renegotiate their sponsorship contracts with charters as well as an agreement that sponsoring districts would not be directly or indirectly liable if charters fail to comply with federal law.
What was the original intent?
When I first read the charter suit, it seemed challenging enough to argue the intent of the 1907 Oklahoma Constitution would be to guarantee the right of an education that is equitable for modern times. But it seemed tougher to explain why the intent of legislators who passed the charter bill in 1999 was not clearly reflected by the law’s language. If legislators intended that local revenues go to charters, why didn’t they write that explicitly into the law?
If the 1999 law’s purpose was equity for all, why did it say explicitly that any charter school formed was to serve as a “pilot program to demonstrate the potential of expanding charter schools to other parts of the state”?
I respect most of the individual, local charter leaders, and my first question was whether the suit could lead to win-win collaboration to increase resources needed by students in poverty, experiencing trauma, English Language Learners, and students with disabilities.
I originally hoped that they and the other coalitions could come together for a collaborative legal/political campaign. We could then unite and try to reverse the damage done by state per-pupil appropriations not keeping up with the cost of inflation.
As a result, I was confident that the Oklahoma Supreme Court would reject the charter suit. Naively, I didn’t contemplate such a settlement attempt to modify the state’s charter policies.