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Enrollment Cap Change Leads To Rapid Growth For Oregon's Virtual Schools

An Oregon Connections Academy LiveLesson online class session. Photo by Kevin Mooney
An Oregon Connections Academy LiveLesson online class session. Photo by Kevin Mooney

SALEM, Ore. – Online public schools in Oregon are ending a year that saw a steep increase in enrollment. The spike follows a move by lawmakers to raise the cap on the number of kids who can get a so-called virtual education. It's a decision the state's largest teachers union opposed.

Under the old law, online charter schools had a cap on the total number of students who could enroll. Starting this school year, lawmakers chose instead to allow up to three percent of the students in any public school district across the state to enroll in one of Oregon's full-time virtual schools.

Todd Miller is executive director of Oregon Connections Academy, the state's largest online public charter school. Miller says enrollment has grown by nearly 25 percent this school year to more than 3,000 students.

"Changing the law helps those who couldn't get in in the past maybe get in now," he says. "We're just pleased to be able to be an option for kids who need us."

Teachers unions say virtual schools erode funding for traditional brick and mortar public schools.

Oregon lawmakers are still wrestling with how best to oversee online education. A task force created by the 2011 legislature issued its final report recently.

The sole recommendation? To extend the life of the task force.

On the web:

Oregon Connections Academy:

Oregon Virtual Schools Governance Task Force report:

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.