Mitch Greenlick is a bad-ass

T.A. Barnhart

On Tuesday, June 21, 2011, the Oregon House debated and voted on a package of education bills. Actually, the debates began on Monday but, following the defeat of one of the bills (HB 2301, which is aimed at expanding online charter schools, and, coincidentally (ha!) would provide additional income to the bill’s main backer, Rep Matt Wingard), the Republicans left the chamber in a huff and threatened the scuttle the rest of the session if their demands were not met. The Democrats caved, allowing a new vote on the defeated bill (HB 2301, concerning).

Rep Mitch Greenlick was not on-board with Tuesday’s agenda. Here’s my account, completely unauthorized by Rep Greenlick’s office, of his day and his bad-assery. The take-away is not that all progressives should try to emulate Greenlick's style (good luck) but they should emulate his refusal to take shit from the Republicans who have less desire to govern than to score political points.

T.A. Barnhart has been writing at Blue Oregon for nearly 6 years, and is wrapping up the Salem portion of The Action TAB, video reports from the 2011 Legislature; a project made possible by supporters at This project will now expand to other areas; all reports can be followed at Facebook.

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    TA, that was fantastic. Your best video report yet.

    Everyone should watch this one.

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    Charter schools are public schools, and there are many families that would like to be able to choose a public school that works better for them, and for the learning style of the kids. We have been talking about virtual public schools for years, and we are getting further and further behind other states in adopting technology in our public education. When we placed enrollment limits on online charter schools a few sessions ago, it was supposedly for the same bad reason that I hear from Rep Greenlick: we need to think about it some more, and we should do it next time, not now. We had many meetings in between sessions, we had a spirited discussion, now it's time to get something done.

    So Rep. Greenlick is a badass because he wants to punt on public education one more time? This is what passes for being courageous in Salem these days? Just saying no to everything and passing the hot potato to the next session?

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      There's nothing wrong with charter schools, as a concept.

      But when they're operated by for-profit companies, then some of the taxpayer money that support them is - by definition - diverted to corporate profit, rather than education.

      As to whether fully online schools make sense, I think that's a question for educators, not politicians.

      When they're being promoted heavily by for-profit ventures, I'm deeply skeptical. It just looks like a way to cram down educational costs in order to make room for corporate profit, rather than a legitimate effort to improve educational outcomes.

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        "As to whether fully online schools make sense, I think that's a question for educators, not politicians."

        I think it's a question for families more so then educators. It isn't something I'd want to see famlies forced into against their will, and it isn't something I'd want to stop families from doing just on the word of their local school district (much less politicians).

        That said, great reporting TA!

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          These bills were about governance, policy and funding mechanisms, not about pedagogy. When this issue was before the State Board of Education, the online schools argued that they should be fully constituted as schools, and receive the same average allotment per student as any school, about $6,500 at the time. During testimony, a home schooling mother was asked how much she was paying for the same course of study. The answer was about $1,500.

          It's true that we are behind in providing this curriculum resource to our students. Part of the problem is that we've been steered down the "online school" route and paid too little attention to creating and procuring electronic curriculum resources and integrating them as part of the system.

          There was a bill, a result of a lengthy task force process, to outline exactly that, but HB 2301 as brought to the floor replaced it.

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            I don't doubt that online education has its warts. It's not at all clear to me why their price is tied to regular per student funding. Why should the cost go up just because we decide to better fund schools, and why shouldn't Oregon demand group discounts as more students enroll? But I also see those as fixable problems that can be corrected as we go.

            Kari and Susan, if we dealt with for-profit charters like vendors with respect to pricing would that ease your concerns?

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        I agree with Kari. Plus, there is a difference between gaining knowledge and getting an education. With online schooling, students can get knowledge but can they get an education? I think not. What about ALL the out-of-classroom learning that really isn't measured? What about the youth socialization process? What about having your first crush on a co-ed? What about real face-to-face conversations, or learning to speak in public? Online education is no panacea.

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          Don't forget the hazing, bullying, cliques and social hierarchy, pressure to conform, etc... I don't doubt that classroom experiences benefit most kids, but I don't think you can deny that it doesn't work for some kids.

          If families think they're better off with online only, who should tell them otherwise? It's not a question of averages, it's a question of kids and I think parents are in a better position to make the call.

          Joyce, a virtual waldorf education would be cool, but you play with the cards your dealt. And what makes the development of such a program more likely, embracing online charters or sandbagging them?

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            I would wholeheartedly embrace charters if they were nonprofit through and through. Not for-profit schools, nor nonprofit schools spending the bulk of their money on a for-profit curriculum and teaching system.

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        The problem I've seen with many online charters, at least in concept and how they're presented, is that they don't provide a true alternative to industrial-style education. They're just industrial-style education with an electronic interface. Same is true for most charters I've seen that aren't electronic. They're not about experimenting with educational innovation, or providing a true alternative to standard one-size-fits-all education. They're the NCLB school on steroids, for the most part, or they cater to parents chasing the latest language fad.

        When I see charters come out that are genuinely based on neuroscientific learning principles with outdoor orientations, for example, or that incorporate real alternative methodologies such as Montessori or Waldorf, WHILE individualizing education programs for each child (yeah, yeah, I know Cornerstone hypes that but I'm suspicious of it) then I'll think that they're more than NCLB on steroids. Otherwise, charters are just an excuse to apply the Michelle Rhee principle of get the teachers young, use them up, spit them out, while flogging the kids along the education superhighway for a profit. Not about learning and educating, and most definitely not about what's best for students!

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    I agree with Marcello. Rep.Greenlick's call for getting "serious" was both right (we do need to do much more) and disingenuous on his part (since the Democrats, controlling the Senate and Governorship, put forth no serious proposal beyond what passed).

    TA, I like your videos, in spite of not always agreeing with their main points. I do want to report that they take a long time to download/play on my 640 DSL line.

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      it didn't matter what the Dems tried to do. once 2287 was defeated (with the votes of 2 Rs), Wingard totally trashed the Ed Committee. he even attacked bills his own members supported, not even stopping to think. just trying to cause harm to anything the Dems supported. the only reason Dembrow's bill to help foster students went thru? Wingard was a co-sponsor. but he beat the crap out of this committee, out of spite.

      and if you'll notice, Greenlick busted his ass to make the Exchange a better bill, not to mention fight back against health "care" corporations. he also gave Single Payer a full, fair hearing, even though he knew it wasn't going to move. he damn sure did his part all session. and do you know why?

      cuz he's a bad-ass.

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    "... and, coincidentally (ha!) would provide additional income to the bill’s main backer, Rep Matt Wingard)

    Care to back this assertion up with any evidence?

    Or is it pretty much the same as your assertion that HB 2301 was "HB 2287 with a few minor changes."

    In other words, just talking out your ass, as usual.

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      Um, Rob, don't you have some connections which make this comment somewhat disingenious? Perhaps you should disclose your own conflict of interest.

      (and apologies in advance if I do have you confused with someone else.)

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      i got it wrong on the 2301/2287. it was 3645 that was 2287 redone. by the time they voted on Tuesday, however, 2301 was nothing more than allowing OHSU to start 1 charter (which is the only school that wants to).

      Wingard gets paid by Connections Academy. public record. he noted the "potential" conflict prior to presenting 2301. the more business CA does in Oregon, the better off he'll be. yea, cuz they'll increase business & not pay their #1 enabler more? seriously?

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    And explain to me why the biggest online private charter school has a 30% graduation rate and almost double the class size of traditional schools..

    This is the best that our legislators will settle for, so that they can "improve" on privatizing schools with a worse graduation rate than public schools?

    What the hell is going on in Salem anyway? Why did Democrats kowtow to Wingard on this bill? Why throw in the towel. Is it simply to get to sine die faster?

    What in the hell was co-chair Gelser thinking?

    Kremer, what is your connection and Wingard's to the aforementioned school and why support private schools where most of profits end up going out of state?

    This was just a bad bill, both economically and education-wise.

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      I do believe Gelser voted no, and was the reason the bill was moved from her cmte to Rules - because she was bravely standing up to stop it.

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      Mark, most of the Dems voted no. Komp & Boone were yes's; not sure anyone else was. Gelser had no say in 2301; that was between the speakers, for the most part. she voted no on Monday & voted no Tuesday. she strenuously objected to the railroading. don't blame her for something she spent the entire session trying to stop.


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