The state Attorney General in Oklahoma just obliterated the distinction between charters and vouchers by ruling that the state law requiring charters to be non-sectarian was invalid. His decision won plaudits, not surprisingly, from far-right Governor Kevin Stitt, the state’s Catholic Conference, and the state’s American Federation for Children, which is part of Betsy DeVos’s voucher-advocating national group of the same name.

This is the breakthrough that Betsy DeVos has counted on for years: that charter schools would be the stepping stone to vouchers.

Think of all the “liberals” and “progressives” who have supported charters, abetting the eventual and inevitable public funding of religious schools: Senator Cory Booker, Senator Michael Bennett, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, Arne Duncan, Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, Reed Hastings, former Governor Jerry Brown, the Center for American Policy (CAP), DFER, the Obama Education Department, and many more. CAP is supposedly the Democratic Party think tank, but it has resolutely supported charter schools. And now it’s on the same side as Betsy DeVos.

In a 15-page opinion released today, outgoing Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor advised charter school authorizers that the aspects of the Oklahoma Charter Schools Act requiring school operators to be non-religious and non-sectarian likely violate the free exercise clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and should not be enforced.

Primarily citing three recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings regarding religious liberties in public education — Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer (2017); Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue (2020); and Carson v. Makin (2022) — O’Connor argued that religiously affiliated private organizations should be allowed to apply to operate charter schools.

“In sum, we do not believe the U.S. Supreme Court would accept the argument that, because charter schools are considered public for various purposes, that a state should be allowed to discriminate against religiously affiliated private participants who wish to establish and operate charter schools in accordance with their faith alongside other private participants,” O’Connor wrote in the opinion which is embedded below.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that can be governed and operated outside of traditional school districts. The schools can run by private management companies. Currently, Oklahoma statute requires operators of the state’s approximately 30 charter schools to be “non-sectarian” and “non-religious.”

Among the entities allowed to authorizer a charter school in Oklahoma is the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board. Executive director Rebecca Wilkinson originally asked the formal question that resulted in O’Connor’s office issuing an opinion on whether the board may “continue to enforce the nonsectarian requirements set forth” in Oklahoma statute.

Reached for comment Thursday, Wilkinson said she didn’t know the opinion had been released.

“I have not seen it,” Wilkinson said. “I can’t comment on it today, but when we hang up I guarantee you I will be going out to search for it.”

‘Overjoyed with the attorney general’s opinion’

Gov. Kevin Stitt, the Catholic Conference of Oklahoma and the American Federation for Children-Oklahoma celebrated the opinion.

“Attorney General John O’Connor’s opinion rightfully defends parents, education freedom, and religious liberty in Oklahoma,” Stitt said in a statement. “Ultimately, government takes a backseat to parents who get to determine the best learning environment for their child.”

The Catholic Conference of Oklahoma also praised O’Connor’s opinion. In an interview. executive director Brett Farley said the Catholic Conference has an application ready to submit to the SVCSB to operate its own Catholic virtual charter school.

Simply summarized, “religious charter schools are now legal in Oklahoma.”