Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Jeff Merkley, Charter School Supporter

In the Willamette Week today: In 2004, Jeff Merkley applied to enroll his child in an Arthur Academy charter school.

Is this a big deal? I sure don’t think so.

Politicians change their minds all the time, and there are lots of Democrats who have changed their mind on charter schools.

Merkley voted against the original charter school bill in 1999, but to my knowledge he hasn’t had the opportunity to cast a vote since then that would reveal whether he now supports charters or not. So I wouldn’t call him a hypocrite – he just changed his mind, and he realizes now that charter schools are a perfectly valid public education option.

And to that I say: welcome, Jeff Merkley, to the growing ranks of charter school supporters!

I was the source of the story for Willamette Week, and over on their site, I’m getting hammered by some commenters who think I somehow did something unethical by “revealing” that he applied to Arthur Academy.

I don’t think so. I never thought it was that big of a deal. And this is not secret information. He applied back in 2004, and I was actually very pleased that we obviously had a convert to the movement. We didn’t get the school opened that year because our facility fell through, so the Merkley application was never processed. If we had opened the school, his application would have been in the lottery with all the others.

Several months ago, I think after Merkley announced he was running for Senate, I mentioned it to Nigel Jaquiss at the Willamette Week in one of our regular conversations. They ran the story this week, I guess because they thought it was an interesting issue just before the OEA did their endorsement in the Senate race. The fact that Merkley supports charters is indeed a newsworthy issue in this context.

What has been amazing is the incredible statements we have heard from the OEA folks. My friend Laurie Wimmer-Whelan told the WillyWeek that “she thinks teachers can separate Merkley's public record from his private actions.”

I guess this would have to mean that it is OK with the OEA that Merkley take advantage of school choices for his own kids as long as he votes to deny these options for everyone else. He gets a pass, I guess, because he is one of the elites. As long as he keeps voting to protect the union’s monopoly and keep everyone else’s kids trapped in a school that is not of their choice, forcing them to go to an OEA run school – he’s good to go!

I hope the truth of the matter is that Merkley is not a hypocrite at all. He may have voted no on the original bill back in 1999, but he now supports charters.

Which is why I say: Welcome to the charter movement, Jeff Merkley!


Anonymous said...

I doubt Merkley will cop to being pro-charter. He got caught trying to exercise a choice that he wants to prevent others from having - classic liberal hypocrisy.

Sell the kids down the river, but take care of his own. And you are right - the unions will give him a pass as long as he carries their water.

rural resident said...

One of the reasons Merkley hasn't had to cast a vote on a substantive charter school issue since 1999 is that the Dems won't let such proposals come up for votes on the Senate floor. When things could have made it through in the 2001 session, where the Rs had some control, either they were too weak willed to push them through and/or there was a Dem governor there as a backstop to swat the bill down.

It would be interesting if someone would ask Merkley exactly where he does stand on this issue now.

Anonymous said...

In the primary, Speaker Merkley is unalterably opposed to charter schools in Oregon and the nation.

In the general, Speaker Merkley would like to explore how we can integrate charter schools into our public school system without damaging that system.