BEND, OR -- President Donald Trump’s pick for Education Secretary cleared a Senate committee, this week. As the full Senate prepares to vote, the debate over “school choice” continues. Betsy DeVos (pictured), of Michigan, is a strong supporter of charter schools and voucher programs for private schools. Democrats opposing her appointment worry she wants to divert funds from public schools.
Bend-La Pine Schools Deputy Superintendent Jay Mathisen says the conversation has caused confusion locally. “A lot of that buzz - that conversation nationally, comes out of large, urban, metropolitan areas, oftentimes in the Midwest or on the east coast where the public school system was really broken to some extent. That really hasn’t ever been the case in Redmond, Sisters, Bend, La Pine," Mathisen tells KBND News. "Here, I think there’s always been a pretty wide range of opportunities for parents and students in our local systems.”
Mathisen says the district enjoys a good relationship with area private schools, and sometimes work together for the sake of the kids. “That’s what we have in common, whether it’s a private school in the area or a public school. We serve those private schools and their students with numbers of our support systems; we have good lines of communication with numbers of them. As a community, we’re better for having all."
Bend-La Pine Assistant Superintendent Lora Nordquist says options abound among local public schools, as well: “Strong CTE programs at one high school, middle years program in the International Baccalaureate program in one of our middle schools, STEM school at Buckingham, a neighborhood school. We also have magnets, we currently have one charter school – Bend International School, and we’re opening a second charter in the fall of 2017, Desert Sky Montessori, which will start as a K-3 program.”
Nordquist says some involved in the broader “school choice” conversation don’t realize charter schools are public schools, although they operate under different guidelines. “We know that families and students are uniquely positioned to figure out what’s best for them. We’ve always supported inter-district transfers, even before that became a law; we support, actively, area change requests, so students who live in one neighborhood can go to school in another neighborhood if it fits them.” Oregon’s open enrollment law took effect in 2012, making it easier for students to transfer to a school outside their neighborhood or district.
In-district transfer requests are due March first and applications for charter and magnet schools are must be in by March 24. Click HERE for more information on Bend-La Pine Schools transfer requests.