A School Choice initiative petition has been filed to pay education expenses for Oregon private school students and homeschooled students with State education funds. If it becomes law, it would invite severe restrictions on homeschoolers statewide.

NOTE: Sign up for emails from OCEANetwork to stay up-to-date on this and other issues impacting the freedoms of homeschooling parents in Oregon. *** 10/13 update: We have had several questions about this alert. We have now compiled our answers into this new FAQ post and will update it as needed.

School Choice initiatives: A threat to every homeschooler in Oregon

Government funds always come with government oversight and leave our hard-won homeschool freedoms in Oregon vulnerable to more aggressive restrictions. School Choice initiatives that siphon money away from public schools also motivate legislators to find ways to prevent that, such as by imposing additional restrictions on homeschooling. 

It almost happened before, in 1990.

That year, what are now known as School Choice advocates put an initiative petition on the ballot. It would have given a State tax credit to private school students and homeschooled students for education expenses. It had a provision that homeschool regulations could not be tightened up after passage of the ballot measure.

Not wanting to be thus constrained if the measure passed, the Oregon Department of Education preemptively proposed additional severe restrictions on homeschoolers, restrictions which were to go into effect before the election.

One of those new conditions was that any student whose test scores went down from the previous year — in any subject — would be barred from homeschooling. So a student whose math score dropped from the equivalent of an A to a B would be remanded to school.

When it became apparent that the initiative petition would fail at the ballot box, the proposed regulations on homeschoolers were dropped. If these proposed regulations had not been dropped, they would have ended up being put into effect.

A School Choice initiative is dangerous for Oregon homeschoolers.

The Legislature has consistently refused to allocate State education money to private schools and homeschools. If these legislators are overruled at the ballot box by a School Choice initiative, they will be motivated to limit the money being siphoned away from public schools.

One way they could do this would be to reduce the number of homeschooled students eligible for State funding. Perhaps this could be done with a law that says any homeschooled student whose test score drops from the previous test score in any subject will be remanded to public school. Or maybe they would choose some other step(s) to make life difficult for homeschoolers, such as changing the definition of “satisfactory educational progress.”

The Legislature has the authority to do that right now — just as the Department of Education had the authority in 1990. They have not done it up to this point because they have not had public school money diverted, and have not yet been motivated enough to face the angered homeschoolers.

However, the Department of Education was sufficiently motivated in 1990 to impose severe restrictions on homeschoolers. With this School Choice initiative, public school establishment forces now would likely be motivated again by the loss of “their” money to homeschoolers. Homeschoolers should not want to invite this kind of attention from legislators.

OCEANetwork opposes any School Choice initiative which includes homeschoolers.

OCEANetwork’s mission includes protecting and expanding homeschool freedoms in Oregon so that parents can educate their children without government interference. We believe School Choice initiatives threaten that freedom. Therefore, OCEANetwork opposes any School Choice initiative which includes homeschoolers, and we work to educate both families and legislators on the importance of keeping government money out of Oregon homeschooling.

OCEANetwork has requested the School Choice initiative petition organizers to eliminate homeschoolers from their petition language. They have declined.

So we recommend that homeschooling families not participate in signing this initiative petition and also vote No on the School Choice measure if it reaches the ballot box.

For more insight into the impact that School Choice initiatives can have on Oregon homeschoolers, read this post.

Thank you for helping us to protect homeschool freedoms in Oregon.

Rodger Williams
OCEANetwork Freedom Watch Team

*** 10/13 update: We have had several questions about this alert. We have now compiled our answers into this new FAQ post and will update it as needed.

If you have questions about this alert, please contact OCEANetwork here so we can forward it on to our Freedom Watch Team.


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