The Sand Springs school board voted unanimously Monday night to authorize the district’s attorney to initiate legal action against the state school board over the state board’s controversial vote to settle a lawsuit concerning charter school funding.
Superintendent Sherry Durkee told the board that as of earlier Monday, 85 Oklahoma school districts – at least one in each county and including all Tulsa-area districts, with the exception of Tulsa Public Schools – had agreed to put a similar question before their boards of education.
“I detest lawsuits, but this is an important one,” she said.
The state board’s 4-3 agreement – reached over the strenuous objection of State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister and against the advice of its own legal counsel – could result in an enormous loss of taxpayer dollars to the district.
The Oklahoma Public Charter School Association had sued the state board in July 2017, seeking an equal share of revenue from the state’s gross production, motor vehicle and rural electrification association tax collections; state school land earnings; and county tax collections.
An Oklahoma County District Court judge ruled in the fall of 2017 that attorneys for the Tulsa and Oklahoma City school districts would be allowed to intervene in the statewide charter school association’s legal battle against the state for access to more public funding. That intervenor status is why those two district are not involved in this separate effort.
The two inner-city school districts willingly sponsor most of the state’s charter school districts, but the legal battle puts them in direct competition with charter schools for existing dollars.
The settlement the state school board agreed to on March 25 would reallocate that revenue, which, at present, flows only to traditional public schools.
For Durkee, the salt in the wound is that the agreement would result in the redirection of a chunk of the district’s building and facilities funds to schools that have no brick-and-mortar presence.
“Our building fund is meager,” she said. “For Sand Springs, that hurts.”
Durkee noted that barring intervention, this agreement won’t end in a few years.
“This is probably the biggest worry to me going forward,” she said. “This goes on forever.”
Meanwhile, legislation prompted by the state school board’s vote is expected to be introduced in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday morning.
Rep. Kyle Hilbert, R-Bristow, confirmed Monday that he will introduce a bill that would bar virtual charter schools from receiving local building fund revenue.
Tulsa World Staff Writers Andrea Eger and Randy Krehbiel contributed to this story.