Equitable Funding For PPS Charter Schools Advocacy Update
The Problem: Public Charter School funding in Oregon is an extremely complex formula, but most studies of this formula yield the conclusion that charter schools receive approximately 58% of funding as compared with public neighborhood schools. Attached are a funding study [LINK] put together by the Chalkboard Project last year as well as a more rudimentary work up that I put together [LINK] of how the disparity plays out. The result of the funding disparity at Trillium is approximately $1.75 million dollars short of where we would be were we funded as a neighborhood school is.
Last year’s progress: In the 2015 Legislative Session we had a bill (Senate Bill 819) sponsored by Senator Arnie Roblan and Representative Betty Komp. The Bill, while not making our funding identical to neighborhood schools, would have gone a long way towards making up the gap. The Bill made it out of the Senate Education Committee and to the Joint Ways and Means Committee where it died. While it ultimately did not bear the fruit that we hoped it would, it represented more progress than the charter movement has ever had in Oregon. It nearly made it out of Ways and Means and looked to have the votes to get it through the House had it done so. The public pressure applied by charter school parents was a big help in making this come to fruition. Through letter writing, showing up in Salem to testify, and calling representatives we had a huge impact and significantly increased the awareness of the legislature of who we are and the context in which we work. At the end of the session, Senator Roblan, Speaker Kotek and others commissioned a workgroup to study charter school funding to meet leading up to the 2016 short session.
This year: A second version of Senate Bill 819 was crafted, given a new bill number and sponsored once again by Arnie Roblan. Simultaneously, an informal work group consisting of several legislators, myself, two other charter advocates and lobbyists from the teacher’s union, school board association, school administrator association, school districts and others convened to discuss charter school funding. The informal workgroup met four times, most recently on February 2, 2016. The result of the work group was the realization that, this year in the short session, we do not have the political pathway to pursue funding equity. However, a formal workgroup to study charter school funding in Oregon and to recommend legislation for 2017 was created. The new work group is more intentional in scope and more limited in who will serve on it. The good news is that charters will be equally represented in this group with 4 legislators, 4 charter advocates (a lobbyist, administrator, board member and a teacher) and 4 interest groups (Oregon Education Association, Oregon School Board Association, Coalition of School Administrators and Department of Education). Trillium will represent one of the four charter folks. The intent will be to craft a bill for the 2017 session that has broader support.
Where we are going now: We are gearing up for the work group and assessing how best to engage in that process. In the meantime, we are working to help legislators learn more about Trillium specifically and Oregon charter schools generally. We have had state Representatives Lew Frederick and Margaret Doherty spend 3 hours apiece at the school in the past few weeks and anticipate continued outreach to state legislators. Meanwhile we have formed both a website: (http://www.oregonpubliccharters.org/); and Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/oregon.public.charter.school.network/?fref=ts); for our charter advocacy group to continue to organize in anticipation of 2017.
What we need from you: Learn as much as you can about where we are now and where we hope to be so that when the time comes you are well versed in the issue at hand. Come fall of 2016 we’ll be asking you to write and call your legislators to urge their support, come spring of 2017 we’ll be asking you to testify on behalf of the bill. In the meantime, writing to your legislators to tell your story never hurts. The more they learn about us and the more we can counteract false negative impressions about charter schools, the more we will be set up for success in 2017.
We are simultaneously playing the short game and the long game. We are committed to working as hard as we are able in every arena to ensure your children, our students, are properly supported. We asked for your help last year and you all delivered in an amazing way. This year we ask you to stay informed, to write and to prepare. Next year, we anticipate asking you to put more energy into advocating. We don’t know how long it will take for this to come to fruition, but we pledge to keep fighting until it does. We need you all with us every step of the way.
To find your district and legislators:
Go to: https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/
At the bottom right hand side of the page there is a section that says: Find Your District and Legislators. Enter your street address, city, state and zip code to learn who represents you and click GO!