Rural Communities Want Education Options, Too

“There must be a better answer than killing the online charter school movement,” declares the editorial board of the Medford Mail Tribune (“Education Does Come First, Doesn’t It?,” April 3, 2009). Unfortunately, killing online charter schools would be the likely effect of Senate Bill 767. And kids in rural Oregon would be some of the biggest losers.

A public hearing and work session is scheduled for SB 767 this Wednesday, April 22. SB 767 would limit attendance for online public charter schools to grades 7-12 in most cases. It also would take the enrollment decision out of the hands of parents, giving school district officials veto power over parents’ decision to enroll their child in an online public charter school sponsored by another district.

But what about the best interests of the kids?

Says the Medford Mail Tribune: “[Online public charter schools] offer an alternative to kids who struggle in traditional schools and an opportunity for quick advancement for those who’ve sped to the head of the class. In areas like the Rogue Valley, they offer an alternative where few exist.”

Online public charter schools provide individualized instruction by accredited Oregon teachers working in conjunction with the home learning coach. Many rural communities don’t have private or specialized schools within driving distance. If their local public school isn’t working for their child, rural parents often have nowhere else to go.

The Medford Mail Tribune editors say it best: “It is telling that [Senate Bill 767] was requested by unions”¦.Its passage would amount to an acknowledgment of what critics like to claim about education’s bureaucracy: that the money and politics come before the kids.”

Let’s do what’s best for the kids, and keep online public charter schools open to everyone.

Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director, Development Coordinator, and Director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research center.