"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Community Involvement?

On Monday, the Oregon House Education Committee passed a bill that would, among other things, strip the requirement of community involvement in the development of charter schools. The full House will eventually vote on the bill. A local reporter accurately described some consequences of the bill:

All four of the committee's Republican members supported the bill including committee co-chairman Matt Wingard, R-Wilsonville, who sponsored it. After four amendments, Wingard gained the support of Democrat Betty Komp, D-Woodburn, the crucial fifth vote in the evenly split committee. The bill now moves to a vote of the full House. 

"Ultimately, there is a pressing need to update this law and to make sure we continue to encourage the growth of charter schools in the state of Oregon," Wingard said Monday afternoon. "In my opinion, this is a modest bill and we were happy to compromise in order to move the bill."

The bill also would eliminate a provision that required local community groups to be involved in the development of a new charter school. 

Removing the requirement for local involvement may open the door for outside organizations or management companies to come into a community and start a new school. Rob Kremer, a longtime charter school advocate who lobbied in support of the bill, said those organizations should be able to open schools in Oregon communities if they are bringing innovative and effective programs.

What the reporter left out, however, is that Rep Wingard runs a PR shop that counted (and possibly still counts?) Oregon Connections Academy, an online education provider, as a client.

Below is the relevant section that Rep. Wingard and others want to change:

(t) Information on the manner in which community groups may be involved in the planning and development process of the public charter school;

And the proposed revision (my bold):

[(t)] (s) If the public charter school will involve community groups in the planning and
development process of the public charter school, information on the manner in which the
community groups may be involved in the planning and development process [of the public charter

It is downright shocking - although not that surprising - that legislators would strip away community involvement in the development of new schools.

The bill also extends the length of a new charter from 2 or 3 years to five years, which charter advocates argue will allow for better access to funding and facilities. Additionally, a district may not cite loss of funding to traditional public schools as a reason for denial.

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