Who Want to Punish Success? Bureaucrats, Not Parents

Corbett School District is making its neighbors angry, according to the Oregonian. Why? Because their schools are so effective that many parents want to leave their local district and drive from far and wide to provide their children with the opportunity to attend what is the best public school in Oregon, according to Newsweek and U.S. News and World Report.

Before this year, out-of-district parents had to get permission from their local districts to transfer their kids. Such permission became rare as surrounding districts’ budget problems surfaced this year. Districts wanted to hold onto local students, rather than pass them, and the money that follows, onto a neighboring school. So as the local districts began shutting their doors, the Corbett Superintendant opened a window by creating a charter school that would operate alongside the district’s K-12 program.

Now parents from other districts can freely choose Corbett. In theory, at least. Corbett could only accept 300 of the 500 applicants to its charter school, leaving 200 without their school of choice. Corbett is not alone. Many charter schools in Oregon (and nationwide) have substantial waiting lists, including many of Oregon’s controversial virtual charter schools.

Yet, school boards like Portland Public Schools’ grant charters to few applicants, in spite of the evident demand for more charter schools. What happens when schools like Corbett succeed far beyond their peers? Parents want more, and bureaucrats become afraid. Instead of fearing change, bureaucrats should embrace the opportunity to give Oregon what it wants and needs: more school choice.

Christina Martin is a policy analyst for the School Choice Project at Cascade Policy Institute, Oregon’s free market public policy research organization.