Luddites against Internet learning

Steve Buckstein

Oregon currently has 70 public charter schools which provide for some diversity in the often too regimented public school system. A law passed in 2005 recognizes the value of allowing new, innovative and more flexible ways of educating children within the public school system, yet one provision is hobbling this clear legislative intent.

The law requires that at least half of all students enrolled in an online charter school must live within the school district that charters that school. A bill has been introduced in this legislative session with the sole purpose of removing that artificial barrier to Internet learning. I testified* before the House Education Innovation Subcommittee on February 6th and seemed to get some traction for my position that such a restriction is based on similar fears that the nineteenth century English Luddites had about losing their textile jobs to the new steam powered looms. Today, public school teachers are afraid of losing their jobs if too many students figure out ways to learn online.

The only witness testifying to keep the 50 percent residency rule was, no surprise, a representative of Oregon’s largest teachers union. We’ll be watching this situation closely to see whether Oregon legislators are more concerned about helping kids learn, or about protecting public employee jobs.

*Listen to the entire hearing. My testimony begins at 57:32 into the hearing, followed by some interesting questions from committee members and my responses.

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