Legislative Update – Education Equity Emergency Act (E3)

Cascade founder Steve Buckstein orchestrated testimony Thursday on an exciting Education Savings Account bill that may represent the future of school choice in Oregon. The bill had a “concept hearing” before the Senate Interim Education and Workforce Development Committee.* Bend Senator Tim Knopp led off, followed by two mothers with children in public schools and the director of our Children’s Scholarship Fund-Portland, Kathryn Hickok. They told the committee how important the Education Equity Emergency Act (E3) would be for special needs, foster, and low-income students in Oregon.

Modeled after Arizona’s successful program, the E3 Act would create Empowerment Scholarship Accounts for some of these vulnerable children, letting them use 90 percent of their state education funding for approved educational expenses like private schools, tutoring, education therapy, textbooks, online education programs, community colleges, and universities. Shopping for the best education at good prices will result in families being able to save unspent funds in their student accounts for future college costs.

Steve told the committee he had spoken with a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) who volunteers to speak up for kids in the foster care system.** She could not testify on Thursday, but believes it is important for public education money to follow these children to the schools or educational services of their and their foster family’s choice, rather than simply sending the kids to the local public school nearest the foster home where they happen to be. She explained how many of the foster kids she sees feel so abused by the system that by the time they turn 18―and “age out” of foster care―they want nothing more to do with the system, even if public money is available for their higher education needs. ESAs would empower these students to have more control over their destinies. Hopefully, she or other CASAs will be able to testify in favor of the E3 Act (SB1576) during the February legislative session.

* Here is video of the 16-minute hearing on the bill. The bill is now SB1576.

**After the hearing, the CASA I referred to in my testimony did speak publicly about the bill with the NW Watchdog news organization which published this story on 1-22-14:
Oregon foster advocate backs school choice legislation.

About Steve Buckstein

Senior Policy Analyst and founder.
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10 Responses to Legislative Update – Education Equity Emergency Act (E3)

  1. Linda Van Wart says:

    Why only for special needs children? Why not pursue a policy of permitting tax deductions for the amount spent at private schools (or the per pupil cost of placing those students in the public schools)? The terrible public schools affect all students, not just the special needs students.

    • Steve Buckstein says:


      While I agree that the money should follow all children to the schools of their choice, the political reality is that limiting the program initially to a small group of students that most people agree should have such choices is the way such movements have succeeded in other states.

      We did put a measure on the Oregon ballot in 1990 that would have provided refundable tax credits for all K-12 students, and it failed 2 to 1 at the polls. Two other states followed us with the same poor results. But now, Wisconsin, Florida, Arizona and other states have limited school choice programs that are expanding. That’s why we’re trying this hopefully winning approach now in Oregon.

    • Bob Clark says:

      I hear you Linda. However, there is the old saying: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

      Sure would be nice to swing some of our public monies to allowing for parents and children to choose private school alternatives.

  2. Neil Huff says:

    I just had a look at the C. C. State Standard for 5th grade (Fifth Grade Common Formative Assessment). I found problems that are basic geometry…solving for area and volume. We didn’t get into this kind of math until 9th grade back in 1950. Geometry was elective. If all students in Oregon schools- public, charter or private- are expected to master this material in the fifth grade, financing the education of foster care students is the least of the system’s worries. If the system is trying to raise graduation rates mandating math of this difficulty in the fifth grade will double the school leaving rates.

    If we thought NCLB and Race to the Top were calamitous just wait until Common Core State Standards is implemented.

  3. Neil Huff says:

    I’m trying to figure out how allowing every family the right to pull their own allotment from the common pot of education funds and use it as they please is going to solve anything. To me with some background in public administration the result would be a gigantic mess to track and administer and play havoc with the current method of school assignment. What happen, for example, if some schools fail under this system to reflect the ideal of integration with certain schools becoming top heavy with the wrong group? One can be certain any school becoming conspicuously better than the others will soon attract the unwanted attention of the Diversity Police. Until educators and politicians find the gumption to discuss the underlying problems of failing schools all tactical approaches ignoring the structural issues will fail.

  4. Neil Huff says:

    Will some one with greater knowledge of pedagogy PLEASE explain to me how the following goals are going to be achieved in our schools. I am considering Common Core or an Oregon version of equal or greater toughness and rigor that CC appears to exhibit.

    1. Obtain an over all improvement of Oregon’s dismal four year graduation rate.
    2. Successfully implement CC in all public, charter and private schools.

    Question: How can goal # 1 be met if the current less rigorous system in place
    is unable to achieve acceptable graduation rates for all groups?

    It seems probable to me that that Goal # 2 will reactive negatively with resect to
    Goal # 1.

    How will the education gurus reconcile these two goals?

  5. Neil Huff says:

    Common Core? Nope! say Chicago teacher’s Union. It appears to have just dawned on them that the teachers are going to be assessed under the new rules according to how well their charges do using CC! Understanding, as well they should, that Common Core curriculum is complex and bewilderingly strange and not only to pupils but for teachers, as well. Teachers have been struggling with other top-down flapdoodle ideas from DC for at least a dozen years. In far too many cases everyone involved in NCLB- students, teachers and administrators alike- have been caught cheating on the assessment exams. If they thought the old standards were tough, just wait! One may bet the farm that cheating at all levels will become epidemic throughout the states once CC is fully implemented. The cheating will become quickly apparent in those inner city schools having predominantly minority student enrollments. That pattern was established under NCLB back east. If teachers have not started in Oregon to rebel against CC standards, they soon will. It may not be a bad thing if they do.

  6. Neil Huff says:

    As predicted…Oregon educators, teachers and parents are up in arms over the seeming arbitrary selection of critical curricula, especially math. One need only read the many stories circulating on the Internet to gage the depth of passion the CC and equivalents are generating amongst the public. With 50% of a teacher’s evaluation based on student achievement, what teacher in his or her right mind is going to support a course of study that not even they fully understand- much less able to inculcate the material into all those hard little heads.

    What with falling graduation rates to be reversed and many more English deficient minorities to deal with using CC under the circumstances is sheer insanity.

    Question: Is there anyone associated with Govt and public policy today who is not snot-flying crazy?

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