For Real Reform, Allow More Innovative Schools

Governor Ted Kulongoski has decided that Oregon will not reapply for a federal “Race to the Top” school innovation grant this month. Oregon’s proposal was graded seventh worst in the nation, and Kulongoski said Oregon “has a lot of foundational work to do” before being “truly competitive for any Race to the Top dollars.”

To improve New York’s bid for Race to the Top funds, the New York Senate more than doubled the cap on the state’s charter schools from 200 to 460. New York’s charter school bill is reportedly unlikely to pass the State Assembly in its current form. However, New York lawmakers are realizing that if they are serious about trying to win up to $700 million in federal grant money for educational innovation, they must allow more students to attend innovative schools.

Innovative charter schools successfully educate students with diverse backgrounds, circumstances and learning needs. But instead of encouraging the success of some of Oregon’s charter schools, the Oregon legislature recently curtailed enrollment and placed a moratorium on opening any new virtual (online) charter schools.

If Oregonians want educational innovation with life-changing results, the legislature should make it easier, not harder, for Oregon students to attend innovative schools. That is “foundational work” that Oregon needs.

Kathryn Hickok is Publications Director at Cascade Policy Institute and Director of the privately funded Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland, which provides partial tuition scholarships to Oregon elementary students from lower-income families.