Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The fault line they just won't cross

We had a very interesting meeting yesterday. It was also very revealing.

The meeting was between representatives of The Oregon Connections Academy (ORCA) and a sub-committee of the State Board of Education. The meeting was supposed to be a "negotiation" over the terms and conditions of a possible waiver that ORCA has requested from the State Board.

The waiver being sought is from a provision of the charter law that was intended to kill on-line charter schools, called the 50% provision. The Oregonian's new columnist explained the issue this Sunday in her column, and last week the Willamette Week made the teachers union the Rogue of the Week because of their part in trying to kill virtual charter schools.

I put the word "negotiation" in scare quotes because what transpired was not anything that resembled the give and take of a true negotiation. Our side laid out our proposal for the conditions we would accept for the waiver. (We would accept a cap on total enrollment, and we would allow the resident school district of the child to be able to deny the child's enrollment, as long as there were specific criteria for any denial, and as long as there was a route to appeal that denial at the State level.)

The State Board sub-committee listened to our proposal (which they had already had for weeks in writing) and then told us what they would and would not accept, which we are then free to take or leave.

Some negotiation. No give and take at all. No requirement that the State justify its position with any rational reason, or any chance for us to challenge the reasons they did give. Just "thank you for your proposal, we find most of it untenable, so if you want the waiver on our terms, then fine."

And the best part, where the fault line was exposed, was in the State's refusal to allow parents to choose the school for their children. The subcommittee said the school districts must be able to deny a child's enrollment in ORCA, and THERE WOULD BE NO APPEAL ALLOWED AT THE STATE LEVEL.

For three years we have heard from the State Board of Education how important school choice is, how they support virtual schools, etc. But when push comes to shove, they WILL NOT empower the parents over the district bureaucrats. They still want a bureaucrat's judgment to overrule the parent's judgment.

Sure, they think virtual schooling and charter schools are great. But they want the school district hegemony to remain intact. If thousands of students are denied access to the schools their parents want for them, well, that is just too bad. We have to protect the education establishment.

Very sad.


Charley B said...

If only we could use this "negotiation" technique when bargaining contracts with the OEA.

Me said...

Actually I don't think the OEA negotiates contracts. That's done at the district levels by local union chapters or in Portland the Portland Teachers Association.

What the OEA does do is direct millions of dollars and lobying efforts towards liberal democrat politicians and a never ending attack on the taxpayers pockets, attacks on viable school management and any effort to enable parents to choose the school for their children.
The OEA has opposed every single improvement and supported every single tax increase.

"For Kids"

Anonymous said...

I there was a way to organize a boycott on the OEA, I would do it in a second.

Anonymous said...

The State Board of Education is just another "protect the status quo" organization.

Looking for reform from that panel is like hoping for 1000 Friends to start advocating property rights.

Anonymous said...

There's an old saying: "The formula for failure is to try to please everybody."

That's why government should only provide economical common schools for attendance by kids whose parents can not or will not educate them and by the children of egalitarian parents who see value in educating children of diverse economic status side-by-side.

Those wanting religion as well or "Lexus" amenities should pay for same in private schools.

Anonymous said...

To "me said..." OEA is always in the background or "the wizard behind the curtain" in any teacher negotiation. Local schools have got to get approval from OEA to accept a contract.