Alternative Schooling Under Fire

Rep. Marty Wilde, Democrat

As Governor Browns makes noises about opening public schools, parents continue to be discouraged and are looking for alternative education options. Representative Marty Wilde (D-Eugene) wants to limit their options. He has sponsored HB 2195 prohibiting student from enrolling in virtual public charter school located in school district in which the student is not a resident if student’s resident school district or education service district offers appropriate online instruction. HB 2195 reads:

A student may not enroll in a virtual public charter school that is not located in the school district in which the student is a resident if the school district in which the student is a resident, or the education service district that serves that school district, offers appropriate online instruction and space is available for the student in that instruction. For purposes of this paragraph, online instruction is appropriate if the instruction is provided:
(A) Primarily online, with no more than 10 hours of instruction per five-day week provided to students at a common physical location; and
(B) For the grade in which the student is enrolled.

Applies first to 2022-2023 school year, with exception for students who are already enrolled in virtual public charter schools and who would be enrolled in grade 12 for 2022-2023 school year.

If school is not available, then out of district enrollment must receive approval if more than 3% of students are enrolled outside the school district. This has led some to homeschool along with the lack of choice and lack of adequate instruction during the pandemic. By putting more restriction on school choice, it will encourage parents to continue homeschooling. One father told Northwest Observer that they withdrew their son from public virtual school because he wasn’t learning anything. They have found that homeschool courses are more vigorous. He commented that the 10 hours of instruction per five-day week is not adequate.

Michaela Hammerson told Northwest Observer, “the quality of public school online was awful (March-June). My oldest (a sixth grader) is a TAG student. Before the pandemic he was not being challenged. After COVID-19 started, he learned nothing.”

On the brighter side, Representative Jack Zika (R-Redmond) introduced HB 2716 that increases the 3% to 8% of students in a school district who may enroll in virtual public charter school not sponsored by the school district without receiving approval from the school district.

Hammerson said school was delayed opening for her kindergartner, “At the beginning of the year we were rejected by multiple charters due to limits on enrollment. We ended up having to purchase online curriculum to get my Kindergartner in consistent school this year. We need more options. Online charters already have this remote learning figured out. Let them teach!”

Public schools have had the tools to plan for online/remote learning for years. Each student has a laptop and many districts provide low-income families with internet for free. Hammerson said, “It’s disappointing that they didn’t use those tools until we reached a crisis. Alternatively, many charters were proactive and are now better prepared to teach than public schools.”

Increasing school choice may also improve the public options if competition is taken seriously by public schools and school districts or more parents will look elsewhere for education options.

–Donna Bleiler

Originally published in the Northwest Observer, Feb 3, 2021

Related articles:

HB 2195 Decreases school choice

HB 2716 Increases school choice

Date: 2021-02-04 06:27

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