(Salem) “I’m very disappointed in the heavy handed tactics of the Oregon Department of Education (ODE),” said State Representative Linda Flores (R-Clackamas), Chair of the House Education Committee today after learning the agency had cut off funding to Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA). This is Oregon’s first and largest public on-line charter school now enrolling 1,200 students kindergarten through 10th grade.
ODE claims the school violates state law by requiring students to have a parent or other adult designated as a “Learning Coach” in order to attend classes. “ORCA became a charter school in the spring of 2005 and has had this policy in place ever since, yet the Department just now considers it to be a problem,” noted Flores. “The agency has been reviewing this matter for the past six months but didn’t notify the Academy about potential violations until school started this week. This just doesn’t pass the smell test.”
“We are confident ORCA is in full compliance with Oregon law and has been operating without any indication of a problem from ODE for over a year. We were shocked and disappointed that ODE would notify ORCA by letter on the first day of school for over 1,000 students that it had decided to withhold funds,” said ORCA Superintendent Jim Thomas. “It is gratifying to have such strong support from legislators including Representative Flores and ORCA’s Board Chair Representative Jeff Kropf, and we look forward to resolving these issues so that we can once again focus exclusively on our students.”
Representative Flores pointed out, “it is interesting to see ODE officials discourage parents from getting involved in their child’s education when they portray themselves as strong advocates.” This past spring the department launched a new program to encourage family involvement in the schools in partnership with the Chalkboard Project. According to a statewide survey put out by Chalkboard 83% of Oregonians feel lack of parental involvement is the number one barrier to student achievement.
Flores is also Chair of the Interim House Select Committee on Education which is currently working with private sector groups such as Chalkboard to improve academic programs in Oregon. Flores explained she is “hopeful ODE will resolve its objections to ORCA’s policies and release state funds without dragging this dispute into a protracted legal battle at taxpayer’s expense.”
900 Court Street, NE, H-287 Salem, OR 97301 503-986-1451