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Judge rules Oklahoma must fund charter school

Epic 1 on 1 Charter School — a proposed virtual academy that hoped to enroll students for school on Sept. 1 - won Oklahoma funding based on student enrollment Monday. It will have to wait until next year to sign up students.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Modified: August 17, 2010 at 6:33 am •  Published: August 16, 2010

A court ruling Monday requires the state Education Department to fund a fledgling virtual charter school that will be the first of its kind in Oklahoma enrolling kindergarten through 12th-grade students from across the state in online courses.

The ruling also ostensibly created a new school district for the charter school, allowing Epic 1 on 1 Charter School to manage its own funding and enrollment.

After the decision, state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett expressed concern that the ruling had created a new school district outside the purviews of governmental oversight, unlike any other district in the state.

"We're perplexed as to why the judge would create another school district," Garrett said. "We don't have a school district that has no representation through their community through a democratic election."

While all school districts have elected school boards, the private nonprofit corporation operating Epic 1 on 1 will not have an elected governing board.

Co-founders of the school, Ben Harris and David Chaney, hoped to open the school's virtual doors to 400 students on Sept. 1, but their application to obtain a "school number" from the state was denied.

Epic sued the state, asking Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish to force the state to issue the essential school code for funding and student enrollment.

But Parrish's ruling was only a partial victory for the school.

Parrish said that state charter school law clearly limits schools, such as Epic, from enrolling students after April 1, the date the statewide open student transfer period closes.

With that date passed, the new school will be without students for the 2010-2011 school year.

And parents who had been counting on the online school opening on Sept. 1 will have to find an alternative option.

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