Nation’s First Taxpayer-Funded Catholic School Gets Initial Approval

News: US News
by Paul Brock III  •  •  June 6, 2023   

Mixed reactions from Catholics and conservatives

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OKLAHOMA CITY ( - The state of Oklahoma accepted yesterday the preliminary application for what would be America's first religious charter school, allowing taxpayer cash to subsidize pupils attending St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School.

Gov. Kevin Stitt, R-Okla. 

In a 3–2 vote, the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board made history when it approved St. Isidore's application to be a publicly funded school run by the Catholic archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the diocese of Tulsa.

Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt applauded the historic decision, saying, "This is a win for religious liberty and education freedom in our great state, and I am encouraged by these efforts to give parents more options when it comes to their child's education."

A charter school is considered a public school since it receives funding from taxpayers, but unlike traditional public schools, charter schools are independently run. The issue has come under an increasing amount of attention due to the fact that St. Isidore is religiously affiliated.

Opposing Viewpoints

Gentner Drummond, Oklahoma's Republican attorney general, opposed the decision, claiming "[t]he approval of any publicly funded religious school is contrary to Oklahoma law and not in the best interest of taxpayers."

Public schools ... are profoundly religious, simply not Christian.

He continued, "It's extremely disappointing that board members violated their oath in order to fund religious schools with our tax dollars."

Drummond cites Oklahoma's constitution, which states:

No public money or property shall ever be appropriated, applied, donated, or used, directly or indirectly, for the use, benefit, or support of any sect, church, denomination, or system of religion, or for the use, benefit, or support of any priest, preacher, minister, or other religious teacher or dignitary, or sectarian institution as such.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters disagreed with Drummond, stating, "I encouraged the board to approve this monumental decision, and now the U.S.'s first religious charter school will be welcomed by my administration." 

Walters added, "I have fought for school choice in all forms and this further empowers parents. We will make sure every Oklahoma parent has the opportunity to decide what is best for their child."

The approval granted yesterday is simply one step in the application process for St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School. The next application is due in January, when St. Isidore, in collaboration with the archdiocese of Oklahoma City and the diocese of Tulsa, will submit another application that will be put to a vote. The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board will then have 90 days to study and decide.


Brett Farley, executive director of the

Catholic Conference of Oklahoma.

According to Brett Farley, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma, if St. Isidore's next application is approved, the school will "move forward with the actual process of establishing a Catholic charter school."

If everything goes in St. Isidore's favor, the government will cover the entire cost.

Alternative to the State's 'Religion'

"Any objection to this legislation falsely assumes that the mainstream public schools are not already religious when in fact they are profoundly religious, simply not Christian," Jeremy Tate, CEO of the Classical Learning Test and school choice supporter, told Church Militant.

"They teach what top Columbia Professor John McWhorter describes as a new religion, where students are taught a new moral code with tolerance as the chief virtue," Tate, a Catholic, said of public schools.

What will happen when the school runs afoul of the LGBT mob?

"The new religion has its own sexual ethics and liturgical calendar, which culminates in parades and processions in June," Tate added, referring to Pride Month celebrations of LGBT ideology.

Kyle Kopy, who taught theology for eight years at a large archdiocesan Catholic school and is now an instructor at the St. Clement Catechetical Institute, also weighed in, saying, "At first glance, this seems like a good thing because many families struggle to afford the tuition at Catholic schools. But it's always risky when government funding starts going towards private schools because it could come with strings attached."

Kopy warns Catholic schools about the dangers of too much state intervention, saying:

What happens when the state overlords want staff to be trained in diversity, equity and inclusion? What will happen when the school runs afoul of the LGBT mob by faithfully transmitting Church teaching about same-sex attraction? That's exactly why institutions like Hillsdale College in Michigan are adamant about not accepting any government funds. It protects their independence and prevents the government from controlling what they teach.

If St. Isidore's January proposal is approved, the new taxpayer-funded Catholic charter school will most likely begin in the fall of 2024, offering online classes to around 500 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

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