School Choice: By the People, For the People
By Donna Kreitzberg,
Education Freedom for Oregon Executive Committee
This article provided by Oregon Transformation Newsletter.
What is the difference between how we buy groceries for our families and how our children get their education? Choice! We are not required to only spend our dollars at a government-run grocery store located near our neighborhood. So why is the income and property taxes that we pay for education required to be spent at only a government-run school located near our neighborhood?
I am a retired CPA, real estate broker and business attorney with a master’s in management finance. As a retired small business owner, I ran for school board for the Tigard-Tualatin school district. With the help of some good friends and my two children, we knocked on about 7,000 doors, talked to families, and passed out flyers. My platform was to return the focus of schools to the three Rs – reading, writing and arithmetic – and remove politics and activism from schools. The folks we met were excited that I was running and encouraged me. But, I lost. I was told that my opponent was funded by the Democratic Party and spent about $40,000 to defeat me.
I decided to swing for the fence and bring school choice to Oregon. I reached out to folks I met during my school board campaign, and we formed a group to figure out what needed to be done. I studied school choice legislation from Oregon and across the United States. I reached out to school choice think tanks across America and many national writers who wrote about school choice. I explained to these national figures what I wanted to do, and many stopped me mid-sentence and said incredulously, “Wait, you are bringing school choice to OREGON?” I chuckled and said, “You bet!”
Our group worked nonstop for several months and drafted a constitutional amendment to allow all Oregon families the opportunity to choose the type of schooling that works best for their children. It was tough enough to draft the amendment, but it was a nightmare to deal with the landmines that are part of the process to bring a “by the people, for the people” initiative in Oregon. I wonder why that is?
We filed our school choice amendment with the Oregon secretary of state on September 29, 2021. The amendment will break open – like a piñata – the vault that holds Oregon’s education dollars and have the dollars follow the student to where the student actually receives education. We want all Oregon families, regardless of where they live and their level of income, to have the ability to make sure their children get the best customized education.
For private school choice, the amendment allows families to withdraw their children from public school or keep their children in nonpublic schooling and opt in for a School Choice Account. If they ask for it, Oregon education dollars will be deposited into their School Choice Account, an account that will be held and administered by a nonprofit organization chosen by the parents. Parents will not touch the money but will direct it be used to pay for education costs for their child, such as private school tuition, home schooling costs, nonpublic online programs, tutors, computers, transportation, testing and educational therapy. Any unused money will roll over to the next year, and any money remaining when the child completes high school will be available to pay for college or vocational school in Oregon. For public school choice, the amendment gives families the right to choose the public school in their school district.
The amendment builds in two layers of protection from government regulation for those who choose a School Choice Account, preventing the government from forcing parents and education providers to change their creed, curriculum, education practices and admission policies.
The response from Oregonians has been phenomenal! Most people are thrilled. Many want to participate and take advantage of the choices offered in the amendment right away.
We are in phase one, gathering sponsorship signatures. We need 1,000 signatures but are gathering 2,000 to be safe. We hope to turn in all of these sponsorship signatures just after Halloween. We will then move on to phase two, which will involve the attorney general and the process to get a ballot title. We would love help with signature gathering, marketing, data entry, donations, etc. Please contact us at [email protected]
We are optimistic that, with the help of Oregonians, we will be able to bring education fairness to Oregon families. By empowering Oregon families with the opportunity and dollars to customize the education to best serve their children, we believe Oregon students will be more successful in school. Introducing competition among all schools will lead to innovation and cost-saving improvements to the content and delivery of education to all Oregon students. Improving the education that Oregon students receive will improve the lives of Oregon residents.