The state of charter schools in Oregon

By Oregon Connections Academy Parent Association

Last June, the bipartisan passage of a group of bills championed by Governor Kitzhaber gave hope for important change in Oregon public education. It seemed that, finally, K-12 education might really be “for the kids.”   Sadly, the contentious exaggerations produced by the status quo cadre has not abated in the least. Following the OEA’s report card (giving 80% of the legislature an F), misinformation, scare tactics, and outright lies continue to be used for discussion on alternatives to the one-size-fits-all institutional public school model.


Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA):

— has 96% parent approval rating
— students overwhelmingly meet/beat state testing
— participates in annual financial audits by the Oregon Department of Education (ODE)
— is only funded at 80% of a traditional school
— bulk of state funding (ADM) goes for teacher salaries in Oregon

Charter school laws are intended to provide an avenue to explore education alternatives in an environment that provides state oversight. It is hard to think of a more appropriate example than the application of 21st century technology to public education. Technology has revolutionized most aspects of our society, while the average classroom remains much the same as 50 years ago.

The recently-passed HB 2301 simply applied the recommendation of the State Board of Education that online charter schools should be available to any Oregon family choosing to enroll. Protection against mass exodus is provided by stipulating that online enrollment by a specific percentage of any given school district’s student population suspends the open enrollment option, and any further transfers to an online charter school are subject to the sending district’s approval.

It is time for those who seem determined to cast ORCA as misappropriating state funds to realize that public education tax dollars are for the benefit of Oregon students, not the public school system. ORCA has proven that online public schools can be successful and its detractors should focus their energy on developing programs to fit their students. Perhaps then, they wouldn’t need to worry about parents looking for alternate solutions.