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An Oklahoma board is set to consider a Catholic charter school this week in what is viewed as a national test case for publicly-funded religious education.

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City submitted a proposal to open a Catholic online school, called St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual Charter School. The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board plans to consider the application at its 2 p.m. meeting Tuesday, according to its agenda.

The board canceled its December and January meetings because it was down to two members — not enough for a quorum. A recent appointment by the Senate allows the board to resume meetings.

Newly appointed board member Nellie Tayloe Sanders is senior vice president of philanthropy at Center of Family Love, a residential facility in Okarche for developmentally disabled adults. Her husband is former state Rep. Mike Sanders.

Sanders, a Kingfisher resident, has dyslexia and said she's passionate about the opportunity to bring alternative educational options to students who learn differently.

The Archdiocese has proposed opening in the fall of 2024 with an estimated 500 students in grades kindergarten through 12th. The school would be designed for students who “desire a quality Catholic education, but for reasons of accessibility to a brick-and-mortar location or due to cost cannot currently make it a reality,” according to the application.

State law requires charter schools, which are public, to be non-religious. A legal opinion by former Attorney General John O'Connor advised the board to disregard that ban in light of recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Statewide Virtual Charter School Board meetings are held at the Oklahoma History Center and can also be viewed online. Comments, questions, story ideas? I'd love to hear from you via email or direct message.

— Jennifer Palmer

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