The Oregon Education Association (OEA) recently released a caustic “report card” for the 2011 Oregon legislative session, including a section that assigned each legislator a letter grade. Of the combined 90 member body, 80 percent of legislators received an F. Could it be that the legislature is so wrong on education policy? More likely the OEA, long accustomed to having its own way, is furious that they did not receive quid-pro-quo for their campaign contributions.
The most contentious bill (in the eyes of the OEA) was HB 2301, which simply allowed a tiny number of Oregon students (3 percent) the option to attend a statewide virtual charter school. This minuscule amount of school choice was so threatening to the OEA that every ounce of marketing muscle was unleashed against it. In the relentless barrage of press releases from the OEA, the facts were shamelessly manipulated to the point of becoming factually inaccurate.
It is time to separate the very real affection and appreciation we have for our teachers from the institutional, political monster that the OEA has become. We simply cannot continue to allow a teachers’ union to set our education policy. Naïve is anyone who believes that the OEA exists for any other reason than to represent the best interests of itself and its members. Those interests are often at odds with the intended beneficiaries of the public school system: students, parents, and taxpayers. Our society will be only as successful as the upcoming generation. Public education is too important an issue to allow a self-interested union and a rubber stamp legislature to throw away.
As a group of parents who have become accidental activists – simply to keep our fine (virtual public charter) school from being shut down by the Goliath of the OEA – we encourage those legislators to wear their “failing” grade from the OEA as a badge of honor. It proves that they have voted to put the public first in public education. We particularly applaud heroes like Rep. Betty Komp, a former educator, who has consistently taken a stand for quality improvements in public education, when it often meant voting against her (Democratic) caucus.
Online education WILL be a substantial part of public education in the coming years. The OEA can protest all they like, but they are clinging to a system rapidly becoming outdated system because it is “for the adults”. Oregon students deserve better. Oregon deserves better.
ORCAPA Board Members:
Anne Marie Gurney, Jessica Cousineau, Preston Baxter, Mark Scarborough, Paula Foster