© 2022 KGOU
KGOU_Header_72dpi-01_0.jpg
News and Music for Oklahoma
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Ten Commandments Amendment Could Propel Oklahoma School Vouchers

TenCommandments_close.jpeg
Ryan LaCroix
/
Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

A push to amend the state Constitution to keep a Ten Commandments monument at the State Capitol could also boost efforts to expand school choice vouchers and education savings accounts in Oklahoma.

The future of vouchers and education savings accounts in the state has been murky  since an Oklahoma County District Court judge ruled that the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship violates the state Constitution by diverting public money to private religious institutions.

The scholarships allow parents of special education students to use money for public schools to pay for the cost of sending their child to a private school. The court ruling, made last August, has been appealed to the state Supreme Court.

A decision upholding the lower court could make any future push to approve school choice vouchers and education savings accounts difficult.

Such a decision, however, might be rendered moot if the state overturns the section of the state constitution, known as a Blaine Amendment, that prohibits public money or property from being used for religious purposes.

The Blaine Amendment refers to a post-Civil War amendment proposed to the U.S. Constitution that would have prohibited public money from going to sectarian schools. The amendment failed at the federal level, but more than 35 states added it to their own constitutions. Critics of the amendments point out that the original motive was concern among Protestants that public funding would go to Catholic schools, which had grown as more Catholics entered the country.

Rep. J.P. Jordan, R-Yukon, has filed a resolution calling for a public vote to repeal that section of the Oklahoma Constitution, which the state Supreme Court cited in ordering that the Ten Commandments monument be removed from the Capitol grounds.

The 7-2 decision on June 30 found having the religious monument on state property violated the constitution.

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit journalism organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on a range of public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to www.oklahomawatch.org.
Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit journalism organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on a range of public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to www.oklahomawatch.org.

Amber England, executive director of Stand For Children Oklahoma, an education advocacy group, said that while the focus has been on religion and the Ten Commandments, there’s more at stake.

She said Stand For Children Oklahoma does not have a stance on school choice vouchers in Oklahoma, but the outcome for the monument case could affect the state's education system more broadly.

“I think this could absolutely affect schools,” England said. “I think what we will see, if this amendment is repealed, is another push for vouchers. I think both sides of the aisle will try to use this.”

Bills meant to expand education savings accounts or vouchers to all students in Oklahoma failed to pass this year.

Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma, has said he plans to push the legislation again next session.

Oklahoma Watch is a non-profit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. Oklahoma Watch is non-partisan and strives to be balanced, fair, accurate and comprehensive. The reporting project collaborates on occasion with other news outlets. Topics of particular interest include poverty, education, health care, the young and the old, and the disadvantaged.
More News
Support nonprofit, public service journalism you trust. Give now.