Virtual Schools: A Study in Freedom

The history of humanity is generally one of a handful of people trying to control the decisions of the many. From monarchies to communist governments, the tendency of government is clear because human nature is clear. It doesn’t take evil intentions to rob individuals of their freedoms; it simply takes arrogance.

I was reminded of this natural tendency last summer when the Oregon legislature passed Senate Bill 767, which may seriously damage Oregon’s virtual charter schools. The bill created a bigger web of bureaucratic “red tape” for charter schools to navigate. According to the State Board of Education, it may effectively close the state’s largest virtual charter school, Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA), if remedial action is not taken soon. SB 767 also created a task force, composed mostly of politicians and government employees, charged with making recommendations to the legislature about how to regulate virtual schools. So far, the task force has not addressed the most serious issues, like the threat of the bill shutting down Oregon Connections Academy.

Instead, the task force is discussing more hoops for charter schools to jump through, including limiting parents’ ability to choose online charter schools, especially if the charter school is run by a for-profit company. If parents have the right to raise their own children, shouldn’t they be able to choose virtual charter school as an alternative to their local public school? Milton Friedman said: “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” If you believe in freedom, ask your legislators to return power to parents to choose their children’s school, including virtual charter schools.

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