Public charter leaders praise funding solution legislation

Posted on 05/24/2021

Public charter leaders praise funding solution legislation

SB 229 equalizes funding for public charter students

OKLAHOMA CITY, May 24, 2021 - The Oklahoma Public Charter School Association (OPCSA) today applauded the passage of Senate Bill 229, which provides equalized funding for the state’s public charter schools. 

SB 229 creates the Redbud School Funding Act which uses medical marijuana taxes and the Public Common School Building Equalization Fund to provide annual per-student building funds to public charter schools.

The OPCSA also advocated for, and was able to secure, additional funding for traditional school districts that receive low ad-valorem funding. Those districts will receive funding to bring their share of building fund and county dollars to the state average. The OPCSA teamed with the Oklahoma State School Boards Association to ensure these districts would be eligible for additional funding.

“This bill allows access to a new source of funding for both our members, and more than 300 traditional districts across the state without impacting local funding,” said Chris Brewster, OPCSA president and superintendent at Santa Fe South Public Schools. “Public charter supporters have long been working toward funding equity that is fair to all public school students and we see this bill as a win-win solution. Public charters, just like traditional districts, are an important piece of our state’s public education system and we are proud to help craft a solution that lifts all public schools and the students we serve.”

Because public charters have no source of local revenue, these schools have been chronically underfunded for more than two decades. After years of failed attempts to correct these funding inequities, the organization sued the state on behalf of public charter students, families and educators. This spring, the Oklahoma State Board of Education (SBE) voted to settle the lawsuit.

As a result of the settlement, numerous traditional districts considered suing the SBE to undo the settlement. SB 229 addresses many of the concerns which led to the litigation.

OPCSA leadership thanked Reps. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow; Rhonda Baker, R-Yukon; Mark McBride, R-Moore; Dick Lowe, R-Amber; and Trey Caldwell, R-Lawton; and Sens. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole; and John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton for working with the association to solve the longstanding inequity that charter schools face in the state of Oklahoma. The OPCSA also praised the SBE for choosing to settle the charter funding lawsuit.

“Passage of this legislation is a tremendous step for Oklahoma’s public school students,” said Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. “Senate Bill 229 can serve as a national model for states that are seeking workable solutions to issues of funding equity for public school students in charter schools. I am inspired by the unified support this effort received from a wide range of educators and organizations.”

In January 2019, the National Charter School Resource Center found that on average, public charter schools in Oklahoma spent $184,816 each year on facilities, using funds designated for classroom expenses because no other funding was available. That same study found that half of Oklahoma public charter schools lack the facility amenities and specialized instructional spaces they require to best implement their educational program.