Funding Crisis Driving Some Rural Oregon Districts to Charters

Last Updated: January 25, 2011

This article appeared in the January 2011 Rural Policy Matters.

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Several rural and remote school districts in Oregon have found a way to survive declining enrollment and dwindling resources by using the state law to convert their schools to charters. Oregon’s charter school law prohibits districts from converting all of their schools into charters. However, there is an exception in the law for districts with only a single school, and districts are taking advantage of this clause. Currently, twelve small rural districts have made this switch, eight of those in the last three years. Three additional single-school rural districts have notified the state that they will be applying for charter status this year.

Recent budget cuts have hit small districts especially hard. And, things will get harder for small districts. In 2007, the Oregon Legislature voted to end the state’s small school district supplement fund beginning with the 2012–2013 school year.

By converting to charters, small districts can apply for three-year federal implementation grants of up to $500,000. As in other states, Oregon’s charter schools are subject to fewer regulations than traditional public schools.

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Coverage of the issue from rural Elkton District:

Read more from the January 2011 Rural Policy Matters.