State's 11 charter schools not unconstitutional, says AG

While debate over charter schools continues nationwide, a recent attorney general's opinion appears to affirm their place here.

Rep. Al McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City, requested the opinion last spring on whether requirement differences between charter and traditional public schools laid out in the state's 1999 Oklahoma Charter Schools Act constitute breaks with state and federal law.

Educators approached him with the question, he said, prompting the request. Since both forms of free, public education receive state funding, McAffrey said "the concern was "¦ the teachers in public schools systems have to be certified, and they do not in charter schools."

"(The educators asked) why do we in the public school system have to be certified?" he said.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Sandra D. Rinehart summed up McAffrey's questions as:
" Is the act a special law since it applies only to specific charter schools, and therefore prohibited by state law?
" Does the act unlawfully delegate legislative power since the Legislature is in charge of establishing and maintaining public schools, but the act allows charter sponsorship by other entities?
" Does the act create a separate, unequal education system for some students since charters have "different levels of accountability, standards and curricula," and thus violate the federal Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment?

Rinehart answered that as a product of the Legislature, in line with its educational interests, the act is:
" "presumed to be constitutional,"
" no and
" no, respectively. "Emily Jerman

  • or