In Short

Oregon secretary of state rejects petition to get school choice on ballot

By: - January 20, 2022 3:32 pm

Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan rejected a petition Wednesday to get a school choice measure on the November 2024 ballot because it was not specific enough to one issue.

The proposed measure included changes to the Oregon Constitution that would allow parents to choose any school for their child and provide state funding for students homeschooling or in private schools, including those providing a religious-based education.

The petition came from Education Freedom for Oregon, a non-profit based out of Tualatin and Marc Thielman, school superintendent of the Alsea School District, which is about 30 miles southwest of Corvallis. He is also a Republican gubernatorial candidate and the petition lists a Cottage Grove address for him.

Thielman filed the petition on Sept. 29, 2021, with 1,776 signatures along with written statements of support from three people.

Reed Scott-Schwalbach, president of the Oregon Education Association and Jim Green, executive director of the Oregon School Boards Association, submitted remarks through an attorney opposing the measure.

Fagan said in a statement that she rejected the measure because it violated the state’s “single subject rule,” which requires ballot initiatives to address a single subject, topic or issue. By asking for changes to school funding laws and laws barring state funding of religiously-based education, the petition was actually geared at changing several constitutional statutes.

Donna Kreitzberg, executive director of Education Freedom for Oregon, wrote in an email that they were disappointed about the decision and that they intended to appeal.

Thielman said he was “really put out” that Fagan did not call him to explain her decision, and accused her of “inserting her own political biases.”

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Alex Baumhardt
Alex Baumhardt

Alex Baumhardt has been a national radio producer focusing on education for American Public Media since 2017. She has reported from the Arctic to the Antarctic for national and international media, and from Minnesota and Oregon for The Washington Post.