The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday approved a proposal for a new charter school in Worcester, despite widespread opposition to the school among Worcester officials.

The board’s 7-4 vote means the proposed Worcester Cultural Academy can move forward with plans to open the free elementary charter school in August. By state law, Worcester’s public school district will have to help fund the charter school.

That requirement set off intense criticism of the proposal in recent months, with opponents saying the money could better be used for other public schools in a district that has been underfunded.

“I am incredibly disheartened by this decision. The children and families of Worcester deserve schools that serve all students and families — not a select few,” Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Rachel Monárrez said in a statement following the vote.

The board meeting Tuesday encapsulated months of disagreement between supporters and proponents of the charter school. During a public comment period, more than a dozen people — including Monárrez, Worcester Mayor Joseph Petty and other local elected officials — spoke against the charter school. They criticized the school’s financial ties with its sponsor, the Old Sturbridge Village historical museum, as well as its lack of detailed planning on how it will serve high-needs children.

But advocates pushed back, saying the charter school will provide Worcester students an alternative to regular public schools. Members of the board who supported the proposal agreed with that assertion. They said the school met all necessary criteria for new charter schools and pointed to the recommendation from Jeff Riley, commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, that the board approve it.

“I have become used to these controversial topics — just sort of groups pounding and pounding away at certain points as if it becomes more true simply by continuing to pound away at it,” board Vice Chair Matt Hills said. “The law is the law. The criteria is set out.”

According to the Worcester Cultural Academy’s application to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the free charter school will initially serve students in kindergarten up to fourth grade before expanding up to eighth grade for a capacity of 360 students. Its design is based on another charter school already in operation, Old Sturbridge Academy, which also partners with the Old Sturbridge Village historical museum.

Worcester Cultural Academy will include programming and instruction from local museums, such as the Hanover Theater and Conservatory, Worcester Art Museum and Old Sturbridge Village. The district says the charter school will cost about $7 million annually once it reaches full enrollment, which Worcester Public Schools will have to fund out of a new allotment of money from the statewide Student for Opportunity Act.

Since the academy applied to the state for its charter, Worcester city officials have repeatedly raised questions about the school’s partnership with Old Sturbridge Village. The historical museum's CEO Jim Donahue, who’s also a founder of the Worcester Cultural Academy, has said the money generated from the school will help cover expenses at the museum.

“The Academies will provide reliable, contractual revenue to the museum, safeguarding us against fluctuations in uncontrollable facts that impact admission revenue such as weather and public health,” Donahue wrote in a 2022 annual report for the museum.

State law prohibits the charter school from using public money for a private institution like the museum. Concerns about Donohue’s comments prompted the Worcester School Committee on Monday to request a state investigation into the museum’s relationship with the new charter school. Some board members expressed similar uneasiness before their vote Tuesday.

“We’re not here to provide a financial lifeboat for a museum,” board member Eric Plankey said.

Tuesday was the third time Patrick Tutwiler joined a Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting since Gov. Maura Healey appointed him as secretary of education in December.

Tutwiler voted against the charter school, saying he questions the school’s ability to teach students still learning how to speak English. He noted 30% of Worcester’s student body is multilingual, but the group running the school lacks experience teaching non-native English speakers.

“I am agnostic as to the governance model and sector of a school,” he said. “What I am not agnostic on are the values of equity, access and excellence.”