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Committee considers charter students’ access to activities

Testimony Tuesday before the Senate Education Committee raised the controversial issue of giving charter school students access to extracurricular activities at resident district schools.

A large portion of the testimony focused on proposed amendments that were still being drafted for Senate Bills 536 and 208, which share identical text. Those amendments would keep the core premise of the bills – charter student access to extracurricular activities – but would allow district schools to charge a charter school up to 5 percent of ADMr per student participating in an extracurricular activity annually, a provision mirroring fee-for-services provisions that are common to many other areas of school business operations.

Daniel Huld

Most testimony favored the bill.

“Our goal in this legislation is not to provide any extra opportunities for our students,” said Daniel Huld, director of Baker Charter Schools, “but to give them equal access to extracurricular activities.”

OSBA joined several other education stakeholder groups, including the Oregon School Activities Association, and testified in support of the bill.

Some administrators had concerns, though.

“The problem with the bills under consideration is that they … go beyond the current legal requirements that the district take care of the charter’s special education programs but now include its extracurricular program as well,” submitted Chuck Bennett of the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators.

Sen. Arnie Roblan

Nicole Albisu, Ontario School District superintendent, also submitted testimony detailing Ontario’s concerns and the district’s troubled history with its local state-sponsored charter school.

OSBA, in support of the bill, cited the benefit to students when they have access to extracurricular activities.

“We believe this is a good bill, even though some districts would not otherwise support this bill,” said Richard Donovan, OSBA legislative specialist. “Specific districts have concerns with this bill. We’re aware of that and believe that while that is important to acknowledge, those (concerns) tend to be what we colloquially call ‘adult problems.’ We’re interested in ‘kid problems,’ and kids do better when they have access to sports, activities and extracurriculars.”

The chair of the committee, Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay), said that because the two bills were identical, only one bill would be selected if the committee decided to vote on a bill. He did not have a preference.

OSBA will continue to monitor these bills.

- Richard Donovan
Legislative specialist