February 2023 | Number 482
Oklahoma AG Withdraws Predecessor's Opinion on Religious Charters, Governor Responds
New Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond has withdrawn his predecessor's December 1, 2022 legal opinion on the constitutionality of religious charter schools. On February 23, Drummond sent a letter to Rebecca Wilkinson, the executive director of the Statewide Virtual Charter School Board, saying, "I am withdrawing Attorney General Opinion 2202-7 issued by former Attorney General John O'Connor." The letter goes on to warn of a "slippery slope," saying that "the approval of a charter school by one faith will compel the approval of charter schools by all faiths, even those most Oklahomans would consider reprehensible and unworthy of public funding."

Four days later, Governor Kevin Stitt responded with a letter of his own, saying, "I write to express my strong disagreement with your letter of February 23, 2023, withdrawing Attorney General Opinion 2022-7." It continues, "You contend that the United States and the Oklahoma Constitutions permit, and indeed require, the state to discriminate against religious organizations seeking authorization to operate charter schools. In fact, the opposite is true." And, "Religious liberty also precludes the government from singling out believers for disfavor or preventing them from fully participating in public life, including in public-benefits programs." The governor's letter concludes by observing, "I am troubled by the allegation that approval of the SISCVS application portends a 'slippery slope' that might open the door to charter schools sponsored by all faiths. Oklahomans support religious liberty for all, Christian and non-Christian alike."

Stay tuned on this developing issue with national implications.
School Choice Legislation Introduced in Congress
On January 26, Senator Bill Cassidy (LA) and Congressman Adrian Smith (NE) introduced important school choice legislation that would create a national tax credit scholarship program. According to a press release, the bill would provide $10 billion in annual tax credits as a charitable donation incentive for individuals and businesses to fund scholarship awards for students. Those scholarships would be able to be used to cover expenses related to K-12 public and private education, including tuition at private schools.

“Parents deserve the right to make the best educational decision for their child, regardless of income,” said Senator Cassidy. “Our bill empowers families to pick the school that best fits their children’s needs.”

Representative Smith added that “Parents – not government – should always have the final say in what kind of education their child receives, no matter where they live or their socioeconomic status.”

CAPE has endorsed this legislation.
Debra Wilson to Lead NAIS
The National Association of Independent Schools has named Debra Wilson as its next president. She will begin her tenure on August 7, 2023, succeeding Donna Orem, who will retire this summer after years of outstanding service at NAIS and on the CAPE Board.
Archdiocese of New York Announces School Closures
On February 15, the Archdiocese of New York announced that twelve Catholic schools will cease operations at the end of the 2022-23 academic year.

"It is never a good day when we announce closures to any of our beloved schools, but the goal is always to strengthen the remaining institutions and preserve Catholic education in New York for decades to come," said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York.

"We understand these are challenging times for many families, and this is indeed a sad day for everyone in our Catholic schools community," shared Michael J. Deegan, Superintendent of Schools for the Archdiocese of New York. "I personally mourn the loss of every one of our great schools. However, as we process this news, we must resolve that the great tradition of Catholic education in New York will continue, and we will assist all students who are seeking to carry on their Catholic education to find a seat at another excellent school in the Archdiocese."
USDA Announces New School Meal Nutrition Standards
On February 3, the Biden Administration announced new nutrition standards for school meals intended to limit added sugars and sodium.

From the Washington Post:

The new rules, which will be rolled out gradually over the next few years, will limit added sugars, including in flavored milks. Previously, there was no federal standard for how much sugar could be included in school meals. The rules will also further reduce the allowable amounts of sodium, and emphasize whole grains.

The new guidelines will be rolled out gradually. In the fall of 2024, school offerings will have to include primarily whole-grain foods, with only occasional products containing less healthy refined grains such as those used in white pasta and white breads.

In the fall of 2025, there will be a limit imposed on high-sugar products like sweetened yogurts and cereals, a reduction of weekly sodium limits by 10 percent for school breakfasts and lunches, and limits on added sugars for flavored milks such as chocolate milk. Further reductions in added sugar and sodium are slated for following years.
Interview with CAPE Board Member Ashley Berner on the Definition of "Public Education"
Robert Pondiscio, senior visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, recently interviewed education expert Ashley Berner, who is director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and a member of the CAPE Board. The subject: what constitutes a "public education" in America compared to other countries Dr. Berner has studied.

Speaking of Europe, Dr. Berner observes, "I am saying that 'public education' is, for them, a broad term for the government’s funded commitment to educate the next generation. That commitment holds, no matter how education is actually delivered. As but one example, the Netherlands funds thirty-six different kinds of schools on equal footing—Montessori, Catholic, Islamic, secular, among others. And yet 30 percent of students still attend what we would consider 'district schools.' It’s all part of the public education system."

Read the whole thing here.
Gene Ladendorf, Rest in Peace
Gene W. Ladendorf, longtime friend of CAPE and private education, passed away Tuesday, February 7, 2023, at the age of 78. He will be missed. His obituary can be read here.
CAPE Platinum Level Sponsors: Archangel and Catapult Learning
Private Education: Good for Students, Good for Families, Good for America
CAPE member organizations:

Agudath Israel of America

Association of Christian Schools

Association of Christian
Teachers and Schools

Association of Waldorf
Schools of N.A.

Christian Schools International

Council of Islamic Schools
in North America

Council on Educational Standards
and Accountability
Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America

Friends Council on Education

Islamic Schools League of America

Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

National Association of
Episcopal Schools

National Association of
Independent Schools

National Catholic
Educational Association
National Christian School

Office for Lasallian Education
Christian Brothers Conference

Oral Roberts University
Educational Fellowship

Seventh-day Adventist
Board of Education

United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran
Synod Schools
Affiliated State Organizations a coalition of national associations serving private schools K-12

Executive Director:
Michael Schuttloffel

Outlook is published monthly (September to June) by CAPE.
ISSN 0271-145

1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Tel: 844-883-CAPE

Michael Schuttloffel
Executive Director
Phone: 844-883-CAPE