The Oklahoma State Board of Education on Monday night approved a $ 45,000 contract for outside legal counsel in three court challenges to its decision to equalize funding for traditional public and charter schools.
Hall Estill shareholder John O’Connor now represents the board of directors in district lawsuits brought by Oklahoma City and Tulsa public schools, and one in the Oklahoma Supreme Court of which nearly 200 districts are part.
These challenges are in response to the board’s vote in March to equalize funding for public and charter schools. The vote was intended to settle another charter school lawsuit filed in 2017.
State Department of Education general counsel Brad Clark told council ahead of Monday night’s vote that there were no more extensions in actions at Oklahoma City public schools and Tulsa, and that a state Supreme Court hearing is scheduled for June 2.
“In light of all this and due to the looming deadlines, the urgency of this case to get legal assistance and get up to speed on cases to move forward with those cases deemed appropriate and necessary, this case is recommended for approval, ”says Clark.
Board member Trent Smith, who voted for Funding Equalization in March, asked Brad Clark what would happen if a potential legislative solution to the funding dispute, Senate Bill 229 , became law and made legal challenges pointless.
“So 229 passes, we all decide hey, that’s great, and we’ve already filed the briefs. So let’s say it happens on the 28th. And then the trial is dropped. We overrule our vote. Briefs have been filed. Does that just go away at this point? Or are there other actions that will need to be taken? “said Smith.
“I think there are other steps, but really, it’s probably better if we get into an executive session to talk about it,” Clark said.
“I understand. OK, OK,” Smith said.
SB229 would currently create an Equalization Fund to provide grants to schools with a low property tax base or without access to such funding, including brick-and-mortar charter schools.