Legislative Alert: S.B. 223

Senate Bill 223 Summary

“Provides process by which private school may become registered with Department of Education. Prescribes requirements for registration. Provides that representation as registered private school when private school is not registered is punishable by not more than 30 days’ imprisonment, $1,250 fine, or both. Prohibits school district from being member of voluntary organization that administers interscholastic activities unless organization limits participation in interscholastic activities to private schools that are registered.”

 

Back in 1922, Oregonians approved the Compulsory Education Act (CEA). Besides a few exceptions, it required all children ages 8-16 to attend public school. Those who didn’t comply could receive a misdemeanor. With no provision in the act for families to choose a religious private education for their children, the continuance of the CEA would result in the closure of these programs. The Supreme Court recognized that CEA violated the Equal Protection Clause in the Fourteenth Amendment and ruled it unconstitutional several years after its adoption.

 

One would have hoped that Oregon would not repeat this mistake, yet we are witnessing an attack on private schools once again.

 

At first glance, SB 223 establishes a means by which private schools could voluntarily register with the Department of Education. However, this wording attempts to cover up the true danger of this bill. Using recommendations from an advisory committee, the State Board of Education would set certain standards that private schools must meet in order to be registered. According to the bill’s text, these include teacher, facility, curricula, and calendar requirements that must be met in order to gain and maintain registration with the state.

 

Private schools – many of which are religiously affiliated – operate independently from the state for a reason. While a number of them choose to be accredited by the state, these schools have the freedom to choose the teachers and curriculum that best represent their values and serve their students. It is concerning to think how the state could control and implement its own agenda through the registration of private schools.

 

If private schools are not being forced to register, why would this bill be of concern? Unfortunately, SB 223 places voluntary organizations that provide interscholastic activities in a terrible position. This includes organizations like the National Honor Society and the Oregon School Activities Association which offers sports, music, and speech and debate. Organizations would have to choose to either offer membership participation to unregistered private schools OR registered private and public schools. It is one or the other. Of course, the programs would not want to lose their ties with public schools, so unregistered private schools and their students would suffer the unfair consequences.

 

This bill especially targets students receiving a religious education at private schools, for students would be deprived of having the same privileges as public school students to compete and participate in the same interscholastic activities, putting them at a disadvantage when it comes to college applications and scholarships. Consequently, an entire class of individuals (students of non-registered private schools) would be punished. This is in direct violation of the Oregon Constitution’s Privileges and Immunities Clause.

 

Public testimony for SB 223 is being held at 3:15 pm on Wednesday, March 17th. We strongly encourage you to make your voice heard and respectfully explain why this bill must be opposed. Written testimony must be submitted prior to 3:15 on March 18th, but we encourage you to do so sooner than later.

 

HOW TO SUBMIT TESTIMONY

  • Click this link to submit testimony to the Senate Committee on Education: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2021R1/Testimony/SED
  • Next, choose the meeting date: March 17th at 3:15 PM
  • Then, choose SB 223 from the listed bills.
  • From there, you can fill out the form with your information and either write a letter or attach a PDF document.

This link has additional information on how to submit written testimony: https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/OLIS_help/Pages/Testimony.aspx

 

Click HERE for a legal analysis.

Click HERE for the full text of SB 223.

 

Cascade Policy Institute’s submitted testimony has some insightful details regarding the dangers of the bill. You can find that letter HERE.

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