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Popular online school in OR endangered by 50% residency rule

School hopes legislature will rescind a law that requires 50 percent of students are residents of the district where it based. They claim the rule would kill the popular program.
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor on

An online charter school in Oregon is so successful that the state legislature is considering changing the student residency law in order to continue the contract with the popular charter school, reports eSchool News

Oregon Connections Academy has more than 1,200 students from across the state, but a law passed after the school's inception requires at least half of a school's student population to live in the district where it is based. When the contract expires in a few years, the school will be forced to comply with the law unless lawmakers pass a law to rescine the requirement.

A bill to get rid of the residency requirement was expected to be heard in front of a House subcommittee on Education Innovation this week.

Currently, charter schools contract with a school district or the state and are subject to many of the regulations that govern traditional public schools in order to receive funding.

Oregon already has a checkered relationship with charter schools, where teachers are not automatically subject to licensing rules or part of a collective bargaining unit.

The relationship between Connections Academy and the state has run into problems, as well. This year, state education officials said they'd withhold public money from the school, because of its requirement that parents serve as "learning coaches."

The academy wound up with its money, but only after agreeing to change the requirement to a "recommendation."

Connections Academy officials hope that they will be permanently exempt from the residency requirement. The exemption was grandfathered in because its contract was already in place. Any changes to that could prompt a court battle.

"The whole idea of an online public school is that people would be able to attend from great distances. The 50 percent rule is a poison pill designed to kill that innovation," said Matt Wingard, a spokesman for the school.
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