Editorial: Evaluate charter school on its local merits

Published Aug 1, 2014 at 12:14AM

A new charter school proposal in Bend could start a fight.

Some despise charters, fearing they erode the traditional public school system. Oregon’s teachers union — the Oregon Education Association — generally opposes them. Supporters want to see charters expand to offer parents and students choices.

Before the debate gets carried away, let’s keep it focused on the facts of this local proposal. It’s only in its infancy, but the concept sounds great. “It would offer K-8 students a Spanish-language immersion program and exchange opportunities with a school in Mexico,” The Bulletin reporter Tyler Leeds wrote.

The person proposing it is a licensed teacher and administrator, Meera Rupp.

It arguably fills a specialized need in the district. Bend-La Pine Schools already has a Spanish-language immersion program at Bear Creek Elementary, but demand beats supply. It has a waitlist. Some 70 students have already signed up declaring interest in the new charter school.

In Oregon, charter schools are generally run privately but receive public funding. That’s where the school board and district officials come in. It’s up to them to carefully evaluate the charter’s plan.

Charter schools do fail. Some fail for financial reasons, as did three schools in Sisters. There is a national debate about the relative performance of charter schools. The OEA is also concerned about the standards for teachers. In Oregon, only 50 percent of the teachers at a charter are required to have certification. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the teachers at a charter are worse.

The Bend La-Pine district already does a good job of offering education and alternatives for students and families. It has one charter, the Rimrock Expeditionary Alternative Learning Middle School.

The decision about this charter application should be about what’s best for students and parents in Bend and not clinched by the drama in the national debate.