It’s Ridiculously Hard to Start a Charter School in Oregon
First, let’s look at Missouri’s charter school law. I wouldn’t say that it’s easy to get charters approved in Missouri, but at least the requirements for proposals are reasonable. Applications must include a description of curriculum, a financial plan for three years, an admissions policy, and so on. The school board of the traditional district in which a proposed charter would operate is able to file objections with the state board of education.
Now, how does Oregon compare? Potential charters have to apply to their local school boards, which then make the decision themselves. The school boards don’t just get to object — it’s entirely in their hands. School boards can turn down applications for all kinds of reasons; one objection cited against a Spanish-immersion charter was “lack of community support.” Needless to say, it’s difficult to rally a community around a not-yet-existent school that’s forced to constantly go back to the drawing board and change its plans.
And by “change its plans,” I mean change even the minutest details. After prolonged back-and-forth with the school board, the Spanish-immersion charter intends to use Singapore Math. I love Singapore Math, so I commend them for that decision — but how can any charter proposal go through when the school board quibbles about every textbook choice? A charter should demonstrate that it has a curriculum in place, and I would be sympathetic to denying a charter if an application made no mention of instructional materials. Listing textbooks, though, should be enough. A charter shouldn’t have to switch from one book to another to please a school board.
And, once the school board approves a proposal, the work has only begun:
The next step is for the district and charter school to negotiate a contract, which the school board will approve.
After that tortuous approval process is complete, the charter is supposed to contract with the very district it will be competing against.