Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Developments in the OEA attack on virtual charters

I think every Oregon citizen should have, as part of his civic education, the experience of closely following a controversial piece of legislation through the legislative process. If more people knew how public policy was actually made, they would be far more able to call bull**** on our publicly elected officials when they try to defend their positions.

As I have chronicled here, the virtual charter school movement in Oregon is doing very well, despite the best efforts of the education establishment to tamp it down. More than 4000 students in Oregon are school VIA one or another on-line charter school organization. The students are doing well compared to the rest of the student population, and the schools cost the taxpayer just about half of what it costs to educate a student in the regular public schools.

Which of course makes them a huge threat to the education establishment - all those alphabet soup groups who believe that the purpose of the public education system is to serve their members.

Seeing the rapid growth and success of this innovative type of schooling, the education bureaucracy and its interest groups want only to kill it. And if they can't kill it, they want to freeze it in its tracks. And while it is frozen, they want to kill it.

At issue currently is SB767, which in its original form was a full frontal assault on virtual charter schools in Oregon. Without going into the gory details, among other things the bill would have simply made it illegal to school elementary aged children on-line, and in doing so would have closed down the largest public elementary school in the state of Oregon.

Yes, Oregon's teacher unions, administrator's association, and the classified employee union had as their express intent closing down the largest public elementary school in the state. It's all about the kids, don't you see.

When they realized their overreach (although they did have a slew of Democrat sponsors for the bill, people such as the senate majority leader Richard Devlin, who apparently will do the bidding of the OEA even if it means shutting the doors on 1500 or so elementary schoolkids all over the state) they backed off a bit, and offered up amendments to their bill.

The amendments passed out of the Senate Education Committee yesterday. The amended bill freezes every virtual charter school in the state at its current enrollment levels, and appoints a committee to consider all sorts of policy issues surrounding virtuals, which will then make a recommendation to the next special session of the legislature.

Of course we have seen these committees before. Who does the amended bill say gets to appoint the committee members? The Democrats. Whose voice do you think might be prevalent on this committee?

So this Democrat appointed committee will supposedly meet over the next few months and figure out some administrative superstructure to oversee virtual schooling in the state of Oregon, and then the special session will take up the issue again.

Meanwhile, every virtual charter school in the state of Oregon operates with a gullotine blade over its neck, because the drop dead date for figuring this stuff out is 6-30-2010. That is the date when every vitual school will be required to comply with the so-called 50% provision, which was enacted by the first OEA attempt to stop virtual schooling, back in 2005.

This bill is a long way from being law, because it looks like it will now go over to another committee, the Rules Committee, for further consideration. It had to get out of the Education Committee because the deadline for bills moving was yesterday. So now it will be in Rules, where guess who is the chair? Senator Dick Devlin.

Here are some questions I wish that legislators who are doing the bidding of the OEA would have to ask: How do you justify freezing enrollment in a legitmate type of public school? How many parents and children are you comfortable turning away from the public school of their choice? Given today's fiscal crisis, why wouldn't you be looking to EXPAND rather than freeze enrollment in lower-cost alternatives to brick and mortar public schools?

These types of questions are never asked. Our legislators never have to justify their actions as part of the public process. They take testimony, sure, but at most they have to sit through some uncomfortable moments as their duplicity is perhaps pointed out. Never do they have to defend their position.

So, hiding behind the gavel, armed with posturing statements on the record that go unchallenged, they quietly do the bidding of those who put them there. If children are hurt? Well, that is just the collateral damage of advancing their political career.

The legislative process is now and always was about who has the most power. Nothing new here, of course. The unions fund Democrat campaigns, and they call the shots when the Democrats are in the majority.

Fine. I get that. But let's not ever let them tell us that they are doing stuff like this for any reason other than that they are told to do it by their masters.


Anonymous said...

You can send a comment on this to our senators from the OEA's website. Just be sure to change the subject line or it will say "Support SB767"


What a bunch of selfish creeps. This makes me sick to my stomach.

Anonymous said...

I can imagine a ballot measure that circumvents the OEA's lobbying power, encourages this approach to educations and removed any existing or newly appointed limits on enrollment.

The fact that the OEA is sensing some backlash and political vulnerability tells me that this might be a good time to play offense rather than defense., maybe even expand the charter school law.

OregonGuy said...


Anonymous said...

Did you notice that PPS financial guru Mincburg is leaving PPS and joining a Portland virtual school operation. ( see pg 3 of today's tribune that covers local politics. ) Could this be the political insiders' planned surviving virtual school?

Gus Miller

gpooleon said...

Excellent post Mr. Kremer. If more teachers in OEA knew what the Union was doing to hurt kids not help them I believe they would be as upset with this legislation as I am. I hope the word continues to get out and power of OEA is curtailed. OEA is hurting education in Oregon!