Freedom to Choose My School Grants

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

Finally, low-income students and their parents will be able to see the Oregon legislature consider a bill that could give them the same access to school choice that higher-income Oregonians already enjoy. House Bill 3010 was submitted at the request of the School Choice Working Group, which is a partnership between the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) and Cascade Policy Institute in Portland.

The Freedom to Choose My School Grants bill will create a pilot project within the poorest neighborhoods in Portland. Up to 1,000 low-income students will be given enough money to choose different public or private schools of their choice.

Grant recipients must qualify for the federal free lunch program and live in a neighborhood where a majority of the students in the local public school also qualify for a free lunch. The grants will basically equal what the state gives Portland Public Schools for each student, about $5,000. During the pilot project the state will reimburse the district for any students who take their grants to other than district schools. If more than 1,000 qualified students apply, grants will be given out by lottery.

HB 3010 will have its first public hearing before the House Education Subcommittee on Education Innovation on Thursday, April 5th. The establishment has had little trouble dismissing academic advocates of school choice. It will have a harder time telling low-income and minority families that they don’t deserve the real choices this bill offers them after the public school system has failed so many of their children for so many years.

Steve Buckstein is the Senior Analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon-based think tank.

© 2007, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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