Where do Oregon’s leaders stand when it comes to education? Nearly every legislator claims to be for “children” and for improving education. Yet, many seem to think that more of the “status quo” solutions (more spending, more top-heavy rules, more oversight by bureaucrats) will fix the problems. In the meantime, thousands of children suffer in schools that are the wrong fit for their particular needs.

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Click here for the Oregon House of Representatives Report Card           Click here for the Oregon Senate Report Card


We also want you to know when legislators accept money from the Status Quo Lobby. This is one important aspect of transparency. Receiving campaign funding from the Status Quo Lobby does not necessarily mean a legislator will always vote only for its interests; but it certainly is a strong predictor of voting habits, as you will see in the report card. Go to
followthemoney.org to research campaign donations that legislators received.For this report card, we scored legislators on whether or not they supported changes that would increase kids’ educational options. In the 2013 session, only a handful of such bills made it to a vote. Learn more about why increasing educational options is an essential part of the solution here.

 

Senate Bill 529 was enacted by the Oregon Legislature in 2013. The bill allows school districts to withdraw from education service districts (ESDs) by a two-thirds vote of the district’s school board. It also limits the ability of public employees to perform political work on the job, as well as to influence the votes and political activities of other employees. This promotes competition among ESDs to provide more cost-effective services for school districts by giving them the ability to choose from which ESD their services come.

 

House Bill 3093 was passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2013. The bill allows the sponsor of a public charter school to terminate a charter for failure of a school to have an audit prepared or for failure of a public charter school to forward other information to the sponsor. This opens up public charter schools to more public accountability. It would be even better if all public schools had to provide this information on a yearly basis.

 

House Bill 2875 was passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2013. This legislation provides that expiring charters remain in effect for public charter schools until new charters are negotiated, following the renewal of a public charter school’s charter. This law protects charter schools from slow-moving charter negotiations which could undermine charter schools’ ability to serve their students consistently.

 

House Bill 2153C was passed by the Oregon House but not given a vote in the Senate. This bill would have given school boards the option to require proposals for public charter schools that the board would evaluate to meet the educational goals of the school district if over three percent of district students were already enrolled in public charter schools, or if more than three charter schools operated in the district. This legislation could have significantly limited the availability of new charter schools if school districts enacted restrictive education goals.

 

Senate Bill 587 was passed by the Oregon Senate in 2013 and was not given a vote in the House. The legislation would have allowed more freedom for virtual public charter schools to hire. It would have given virtual public charter schools the ability to hire individuals employed by a for-profit entity in order to provide educational services. It also would have given public school teachers more flexibility in choosing to work for a public charter school. The bill would have allowed virtual public charter schools to hire unlicensed administrators and teachers (who still would have had to be registered), up to half of the full-time-equivalent administrative and teaching positions. This would have given virtual charter schools more flexibility and a greater ability to bring in individuals outside the education industry who could have valuable and innovative contributions.

 

Online Education Legislation Bill Summaries and Analysis

 

Senate Bill 587 was passed by the Oregon Senate in 2013 and was not given a vote in the House. The legislation would have allowed more freedom for virtual public charter schools to hire. It would have given virtual public charter schools the ability to hire individuals employed by a for-profit entity in order to provide educational services. It also would have given public school teachers more flexibility in choosing to work for a public charter school. The bill would have allowed virtual public charter schools to hire unlicensed administrators and teachers (who still would have had to be registered), up to half of the full-time-equivalent administrative and teaching positions. This would have given virtual charter schools more flexibility and a greater ability to bring in individuals outside the education industry who could have valuable and innovative contributions.

 

Senate Bill 418 died in the Senate Committee on Education and Workforce Development. This bill would have increased from three to five percent the percentage of students who might enroll in a virtual public charter school without receiving approval for enrollment from their school districts of residence. It would have removed the sunset on institutions of higher education becoming sponsors of public charter schools. It would have allowed an institution of higher education to sponsor more than one public charter school. The bill would have given more students the option of choosing online education and would have given institutions of higher education greater ability to maintain their sponsorship of public charter schools and to sponsor new public charter schools.

 

Senate Bill 508 died in the Senate Committee on Education and Workforce Development. The bill specified minimum enrollment requirements for public charter schools that offer online courses. It specified that public charter schools with online classes must have 250 students enrolled from over six school districts. This would have placed a higher burden on virtual public charter schools than on regular charter schools, which are only required to have 25 students.

 

Senate Bill 666 died in the Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education. The bill would have allowed virtual public charter schools to receive funding for providing supplemental online courses. It specified requirements for courses to be eligible to receive funding. It would have directed the Department of Education to make distributions from the Oregon Virtual School District Fund to fund supplemental online courses and appropriated moneys to the Oregon Virtual School District Fund. This would have rectified some of the State’s inequitable appropriations rules by allocating funding to virtual schools to provide online courses. It also would have given more students more choices in education by ensuring that charter schools were given funding to provide other services.

 

Senate Bill 761 died in the Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education. The bill would have established the Task Force on Virtual School Governance for the purpose of recommending a governance structure for virtual education that is provided statewide. The task force would have consisted of nine individuals, with only four being virtual education representatives, and two parents. The other members would have been two state senators, two state representatives, and one member from the Department of Education. The task force would have sunsetted on the date of the convening of the 2015 regular legislative session.

 

House Bill 2444 died in the House Committee on Education. The bill would have allowed students to choose to satisfy one or more high school diploma credits by successful completion of one online course. It would have directed school districts or public charter schools to pay the provider of the online course. This legislation would have given students more choices in fulfilling their course requirements.

 

House Bill 2457 died in the House Committee on Education. The bill would have reduced average daily membership for students enrolled in virtual public charter schools for the purpose of making State School Fund distributions. This would have reduced funding overall for virtual public charter schools and undermined their ability to operate in the state.

 

House Bill 2151 died in the House Committee on Education. The bill would have clarified which students are included in the calculation to determine if three percent of students who reside in a school district are enrolled in virtual public charter schools. This bill would have done little to harm or help school choice.

 

House Bill 3033 died in the House Committee on Education. The bill would have allowed virtual public charter schools or sponsors of virtual public charter schools to contract with entities to provide educational services through virtual public charter schools by persons who are not licensed or registered by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission. This legislation would have opened up the employment market for virtual public charter schools, giving them more flexibility and a wider, more diverse pool of candidates.

 

House Bill 2993 died in the House Committee on Education. The bill would have allowed a person without an administrative license to be superintendent, or assistant superintendent, of a public school, public charter school, or virtual public charter school. It would have required a superintendent or assistant superintendent who does not have an administrative license to complete, within one year of being hired, a program conducted by a professional organization of school administrators. This legislation would have opened up the employment market for brick-and-mortar and virtual public charter schools, giving them more flexibility and a wider, more diverse pool of candidates.

 

Good pieces of legislation that did not advance

 

House Bill 2881 died in the House Committee on Education. The bill would have allowed parents to submit a petition to a school district board to transform a school that is in the bottom 20 percent of schools in the state. It would have provided a process and requirements for the transformation. This “parent trigger” bill would have given parents more control over local schools and would have made schools more accountable for the achievement of their students.

 

House Bill 2864 died in the House Committee on Education. The bill would have established the Task Force on Local Control of Education. The bill would have sunsetted the task force on the date of convening of the 2015 legislative session. This bill could have given local communities an opportunity to voice their concerns about how best to meet the needs of their communities and to challenge the top-down approach of the current education model.

 

Senate Joint Resolution 23 and its companion bill Senate Bill 500 both died in the Senate Committee on Education and Workforce Development. The Resolution  proposed an amendment to the Oregon Constitution allowing income and excise tax credits for educational expenses paid to or for the benefit of religion-based schools, while SB 500 proposed tax credits for educational expenses or for contributions to qualified scholarship-granting organizations. Both would have given more opportunity to students to attend the schools of their parents’ choice, and they would have helped parents not to be doubly burdened when they pay taxes for public schools and tuition.