Flores Criticizes ODE Actions Against Charter School

(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

  • mrf

    Arthur Acad. Charter Schools saw great success by raising reading-math scores. ODe should love these schools not fight them.

  • JoJo

    Nothing in education in Oregon will ever change as long as the teacher unions run the state and have the legislators in thier back pocket.

    • That is the beauty of ORCA and more broadly, charter schools. They are not required to hire union teachers and can operate beyond the confines of those barriers. ORCA provides an excellent opportunity for students to learn at their own pace in an environment that they can control.

      I really hate to see the ODE play politics with the education of our children. It’s understandable to cut funding for a program because it is ineffective in meeting it’s stated goals, but to cut funding for obscure reasons shows a complete lack of common decency for the students that are left without reprecussion.

  • Mark Mark Mark Mark Mark

    Mark, Please review:

    ORS 338.135 (7)(a) Notwithstanding ORS 342.173, a public charter school may employ as an administrator a person who is not licensed by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

    (b) Any person employed as a teacher in a public charter school shall be licensed or registered to teach by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

    (c) Notwithstanding paragraph (a) or (b) of this subsection, at least one-half of the total full-time equivalent (FTE) teaching and administrative staff at the public charter school shall be licensed by the commission pursuant to ORS 342.135, 342.136, 342.138 or 342.140.

    • Yes, true and that has nothing to do with the fact that they don’t have to be UNION teachers. Certified teachers have nothing to do with being UNION teachers. Learn the difference then talk down to me again.

      • Anonymous

        I think part of his point is that ALL teachers in public schools, and union members, are certified teachers who have met the state requirements and are qualified to educate whereas only half of educaters in charter schools need to have the skills, education, and qualification of meeting the Teaching Standards and ractices. So, the other half could be good intentioned bafoons who aren’t qualified to teach kids and help them learn.

        He’s also probably trying to point out that 1. it’s not an obscure law, rather, it’s easily located. and an administrator should know the law. And 2, following the law is not playing politics. The Oregon Department of Education as a government entity is required to enforce the law. it’s one of the functions of government people don’t like – especially if it clashes with ones actions or beliefs. If they become aware of a violation, the law doesn’t really give a lot of flexability with the consequences.

        • They were playing politics as the ODE did not inform ORCA of their investigation until they defunded it. More politically, they waited until the 1st day of class to inform the school that it would not receive funds for the year.

          The problem with the school arises that the parents/learning coach have to take a proactive role in the learning of the students. The learning coach does not teach the student, rather it guides the student through lectures from certified teachers.

          From the Connections Academy website:

          “Teachers are as important in a virtual classroom as they are in a conventional bricks-and-mortar school. Unlike many other online schools, Connections Academy teachers work from a central location in each state and spend the majority of their time communicating with students and learning coaches, analyzing individual student performance, and personalizing instructional programs.

          Our teachers are certified, full-time professionals who are specially trained in the nuances of working effectively with children in a virtual setting. They have no other responsibilities besides teaching and helping students achieve their potential.”

          The ODE opposes increased parental involvment in an atmosphere where a certified teacher still operates as the prominent person teaching the student. That’s why I perceive the ODE to playing politics.

  • ZAP! Good eye, Mark. If you didn’t do it, I was going to. -T

  • Marvin McConoughey

    The ODE actions, while performed under the color of the law, run counter to the need for some new approaches in Oregon’s costly, imperfect education system. Oregon’s education industry seems badly addicted to bureaucratic rules that ill-serve the public. In the private sector, IBM when in business difficulties, was able to hire Gerstner whose expertise was in the food industry. His lack of specific credentials in computers may have been a factor in the new approaches that he brought to IBM. Now, Ford Motor Company, in great financial peril, has chosen to hire a known leader with little experience in car manufacturing. It is sad that Oregonians are being deprived by Ms. Castillo of badly needed exposure to new ideas and new management approaches.

    • Anonymous

      Experiment with your kids, not mine