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Parents Concerned About Charter School Lawsuit

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Some Tulsa parents are concerned a new lawsuit could shut down three local schools. Some Tulsa parents are concerned a new lawsuit could shut down three local schools.
Tulsa Public Schools is suing the state over its charter school law. Tulsa Public Schools is suing the state over its charter school law.
Matt Livingood says if the law is found to be unconstitutional, he'll work to keep those schools open on a contract basis. Matt Livingood says if the law is found to be unconstitutional, he'll work to keep those schools open on a contract basis.

Some Tulsa parents are concerned a new lawsuit could shut down three local schools. Tulsa Public Schools is suing the state over its charter school law. The News On 6's Ashli Sims reports the school district says it's a matter of constitutionality and they are challenging the law, not the schools. Charter school advocates say it seems like they're trying to take the charters out of TPS.

Deborah Brown Community School has been handing out homework and educating students for seven years at 2 South Elgin. It's one of the state's oldest charter schools, but now that charter could be in jeopardy.

"Yes, we felt it was an attack. It's a frivolous lawsuit," said Harold Roberts with Deborah Brown Community School.

Charter schools are funded by the state and sponsored by a school district. But, they have independent school boards and don't have to follow some of the regulations that restrict typical public schools. Tulsa Public School's attorney filed a lawsuit last week challenging the law because it only applies to certain schools in Tulsa and Oklahoma counties. TPS says that's unconstitutional.

"There are districts within Tulsa County and Oklahoma County that are not subject to the law. There are districts that are above 5,000 that are not subject to the law. So, the classification that it creates, it treats schools differently," said Matt Livingood of the Tulsa School Board.

The lawsuit goes on to claim that TPS is irreparably harmed because it's losing money to its three charter schools. And, it asks for a permanent injunction that stops the state from giving money to local charter schools.

"Those students are coming from a wide variety of schools. We still have to keep all of those schools open. So, our overhead and our incremental costs are increased," said Matt Livingood with the Tulsa School Board.

"We're a drop in the bucket compared to the number of dollars that Tulsa Public Schools received for funding," countered Harold Roberts with Deborah Brown Community School.

Roberts says this isn't about constitutionality, but control. He says TPS just doesn't like a new provision in the charter school law that allows charters to be sponsored by local colleges and universities.

"Tulsa Public Schools made its slogan that it's a district of choice. Well, be truly a district of choice and offer educational options," said Harold Roberts with Deborah Brown Community School.

"We're not alleging that charter schools are a bad thing. We're suggesting that the legislature if they want charter schools they need to do them in conformance with our constitution," said Matt Livingood with the Tulsa School Board.

All three charter schools, Deborah Brown, Dove Science Academy and the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences, cost the district about $3.5 million. But, the law allows the district to keep 5% of that for administrative costs.

School board member Matt Livingood says if the law is found to be unconstitutional, he'll work to keep those schools open on a contract basis.

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