News From Oregon
When you introduce choice and competition into the education market, people with a vested interest in traditional districts don’t take it lying down. (I’m not referring to teachers’ unions alone; almost anyone who can gain from waste and mismanagement, including local farmers, will fight against reforms tooth and nail.)
With that in mind, I’m following events in Oregon to see whether choice will survive there. Portland is ending its practice of 30 years that allowed families to choose public schools outside their neighborhoods. Students will still be able to attend magnet schools, of which there are 15 in total, counting both elementary and high schools. (Two new magnet schools are set to open under the district plan.)
I can’t tell how the changes will affect language immersion programs. These programs take place in regular district schools, but draw students from throughout Portland. It would be great if they could be converted to magnets. However, a few extra magnets won’t offset all the choices that will disappear when intradistrict enrollment ends.
The other education policy debate playing out in Oregon involves online charter schools. Both the Oregon House and Senate have approved a moratorium on online schools. The bills would require that no new online schools open this year, and that enrollment in the existing ones has to stay the same. The ostensible reason for this moratorium is to give regulators time to think about online schools, but how would a few more students signing up prevent regulators from doing that? And, given that most states have online schools (through charters, districts, or state departments of education) it doesn’t make sense to say that Oregonians are rushing into uncharted territory and must be stopped for their own good.
I look forward to finding out how Oregonians react to these attempts to restrict their educational options.