Kathryn HickokCascade Commentary

 Chair Hass and members of the committee, I am Kathryn Hickok from Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, speaking in opposition to SB 767. Cascade promotes public policy alternatives that foster individual liberty, personal responsibility and economic opportunity in Oregon. We also run an entirely privately funded scholarship program for K-12 Oregon students from lower-income families. The Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland has helped nearly 650 Oregon students have access to diverse educational settings that meet their individual needs.

As director of the Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland, I witness the lengths to which lower-income parents and parents of children with special needs will go to choose the school they think is best for their kids. They stretch already-tight budgets to pay for tuition and sometimes drive considerable distances.

Online public charter schools contribute to the diversity of education options in our state that help students learn in the setting that works best for them. For students in rural communities, online charter schools can be a life-changing educational opportunity.

A couple weeks ago, the editorial board of the Medford Mail Tribune spoke out against this bill on behalf of families in rural Oregon, writing: “[Online public charter schools] offer an alternative to kids who struggle in traditional schools and an opportunity for quick advancement for those who’ve sped to the head of the class. In areas like the Rogue Valley, they offer an alternative where few exist.”

Online public charter schools provide individualized instruction by accredited Oregon teachers working in conjunction with the home learning coach. Many rural communities don’t have private or specialized schools within reasonable driving distance, but online charter schools provide alternative access to high-quality public education for kids who don’t have many options or opportunities. If their local public school isn’t working for their child, rural parents often have nowhere else to go. Online public charter schools provide flexible diversity within our public education system, and kids in rural Oregon would be some of the biggest losers if this option were no longer available to them.

I urge you to let online public charter schools continue to serve students throughout the state of Oregon. More diversity in public education is a good thing. Thank you very much.

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