Saturday, August 13, 2005

Update on SB1071 and Connections Academy

OK, sorry I didn't give the blow by blow of how the travesty of SB1071 became part of the legislative end-game. What is done is done. The whole sordid story would take thousands of words to accurately describe, and I am not sure it would be worth it.

I did however hear from a reader who called the Speaker's office multiple times during the last couple days of the session while this bill was in play, only to be told by the staff at various times that "as far as they knew, the bill was dead," and "they are doing everything they can to kill it."

Now, it is not hard for me to believe that the first of those statements is true. The speaker's staff quite often is in the dark about what is actually going on, especially the staffers who are handling public inquiries.

The second statement, however, is pretty sad. It is blatantly false, of course. If the speaker wanted that bill dead she had full authority to kill it. The only reason it survived was because she agreed to make it part of the deal she agreed to in order to end the session.

So it is pretty disappointing that a citizen would be told a bald faced lie when calling about a bill. Imagine the cynicism that breeds. Imagine how alienating it is for a faithful Republican to call the Speaker's office and be assured of something that he finds out later was baldly false.

Now - the good news:

Connections Academy will indeed open this fall, despite the language of 1071 that would require it to enroll half its kids from inside the Scio School District. We believe that Connections Academy is grandfathered, since it was approved before the effective date of the legislation. In addition, the record is clear that the only reason some of the key votes in committee were cast in favor of SB1071 was because the committee members were assured by the Oregon Department of Education that Connections Academy would not be affected.

If and when the OEA files a lawsuit claiming that ORCA must comply with this provision of the law (and in my view very well could happen) we will have this legislative history on our side.

So Oregon's only virtual charter school continues to enroll students. More than 400 have enrolled already.

I was extrememly dissapointed that SB1071 became part of the end-of-session deal, but even though it did, ORCA will continue. They can't kill something that easily.

I'll report further developments on this site.


gus miller said...


From things Scio Superintendent Jim Thomas has said in the past, he sounds very supportive of giving OEA members any jobs they are qualified for in the district's virtual school.

There is a good chance the OEA will leave the new virtual school alone. I wonder if the AFT will try to compete to represent employees of the new virtual charter school?

Anonymous said...

"We believe" ORCA is grandfathered in? Our belief in something doesn't necessarily make it truth. So, the jury is still out on whether ORCA will be allowed to operate with more than 50% of its students residing outside of the Scio SD boundaries. Also, this is NOT the only CS impacted by SB 1071. From all I hear, the final word on whether currently operating and soon-to-be-operating (i.e., ORCA) will be waived from this provision of SB 1071 is still up in the air.

Rob Kremer said...

Oh, gee, Anon, thanks for pointing out that if I believe something it is not necessarily true. Very helpful.

No, the jury is NOT still out on the question of whether ORCA is grandfathered. The jury has not yet been assembled.

The question will be decided, ultimately, only when and if someone (now who would do such a thing?) files a lawsuit against the state claiming that ORCA must fulfill the requirements of SB1071.

That is when my "belief" would be put to the test. Apparently the Oregon Department of Education has the same belief as me, since one of their officials was quoted in the Oregonian today saying that ORCA was grandfathered.

Would the court find differently? That is a possibility, and no-one has ever said anything different.

However there is a strong legislative record to the effect that the legislators voted for 1071 with the understanding that it did not impact ORCA.

When a court is deciding a legal question that is not settled by the language of the statute (which is the case here) they look to the legislative record to see if they can figure out "legislative intent" on the question at hand.

The question here would be: is ORCA grandfathered, since it was approved before 1071 went into effect?

The language of the bill is silent on that question, so if and when a court were to try to answer it, it would look to the legislative record where they will see statements both in committee and on the house floor by several members saying that their understanding is that 1071 would not impact ORCA.