Speaker 1 0:00
So what we're trying to do is allow parents to choose any public school or any charter school that has room and that their child would be better served going to. So they won't have to worry about boundaries, they won't have to worry about getting permission, they will just decide, okay, I was assigned to this school Public School A, but my tribe will be better served over here at Public School B. So if Public School B or Charter School B has available space, then the child will be able to go there.
Welcome to cascade views a discussion with Central Oregon leaders. Your host is Michael SIPE, founder of 10x catalyst groups and Crosspoint capital community leader and best selling author. The purpose of these discussions is to share the views and insights of local leaders from a variety of community sectors on a range of timely and important regional and state issues. With that now, here's your host, Michael SIPE.
Michael Sipe 1:04
This is Michael SIPE, and I'll be your host. My guest today is Donna Kreisberg. That is a retired real estate broker, Certified Public Accountant, small business owner, business and tax attorney and she's got a master's in management and finance. Don has spent several years reading legislation and case law from across America concerning school choice. He then spend time with school choice advocates, policy folks, litigators, constitutional attorneys, and think tank directors from 17 states gathering materials to use to draft to school choice amendments, using the best features of existing legislation. And think tank model legislation is Kreisberg drafted the open enrollment amendment and school choice amendment as an of the People By the People for the people effort, empowering parents with constitutionally protected rights, and giving them back their voice in the education of their children. So we're here today to talk about education in Oregon School Choice and the Oregon constitutional amendments being pro proposed by her organization, education freedom for Oregon. You can learn more about this at education freedom for oregon.com. So Donna, welcome to the show.
Unknown Speaker 2:18
Thank you for having me, Michael, I appreciate it.
Michael Sipe 2:21
You bet. Well, to get started, fill us in just a little on your personal background, and in specifically on how you became interested in education in school choice.
Speaker 1 2:32
Well, as you mentioned, in the opening, I'm retired in several capacities, and I have a good skill set that I thought since I was retired, I would put to good use in Oregon. Basically, our family would sit around the dinner in the dining table and talk about various issues. And one of them was education. And I sort of think, gosh, you know, each child should be worth let's say, $10,000. And wherever the child went to school, that should be where that money goes so that each child can get the best education that fits their needs. At the time we were discussing that I really didn't know what school choice was. But after retiring, and after running for the school board in Tiger, Tualatin and not being successful, I thought, okay, how else can I use my skills, and I decided school choice. So that's when I began researching. And we formed the nonpartisan nonprofit grassroots group education, freedom for Oregon, as a way to bring school choice to Oregon. So our idea here is to not change any particular school system, but just empower parents with the ability to choose which learning environment works best for those children. Because the whole point of everything we do, or tax money, and basically as being parents is to make our children's lives as as good as possible. And education is a huge component of that. So that's sort of how I got started in this. And this was back in June of 2021.
Michael Sipe 3:56
But I think one of the points you mentioned there that is important here, right out of the gate is that your organization is not affiliated with any, you know, political party, and this is a nonpartisan discussion that affects everyone and, and should be of interest to everyone.
Speaker 1 4:15
Yes, and the important thing with school choice is basically we love our children. We know our children are unique, they have different talents, they have different limitations, but we all know how important education is for the future of their lives and for the future of our communities. So the goal here is always what's the best thing for our children. How do we make sure our children get the best education? It's not a political, it's not Republican, Democrat. And the polls from the last many years show that all stripes of people, whether you're Republican, Democrat, Independent, non affiliated, whatever, because we love our children because we know how important education is. We all believe in school choice and it pulls very well for the very reasons that our children are so important to us. So
Michael Sipe 5:01
give us an overview about the current system. What are the different ways that the K 12 education works in Oregon? And what are some of the options that people have now?
Speaker 1 5:14
Well, basically, in Oregon, we have public school systems. And those are funded by our tax dollars, as all of our money is supposed to go toward public education, the education of all of our children. The way that the schools are, the enrollment is determined is what's called assigned school districts. So depending on where you live, you are assigned to a public school. And it's sometimes thought of as limiting, because if you're rich enough to get into a neighborhood that has a great school, that's wonderful for your children. But there are other families who can't afford to buy the houses in those fancier districts with the fancy or school. So they're discriminated against. We also have charter schools that are relatively robust, and that's another public regulated school option. But it's a little bit less regulated, there's a little more autonomy in the people that run those schools. And they unfortunately get less than what's attributed to a child in a public school. So the public and the charters are regulated by the government. And those are the predominantly used education system, we don't have any private school choice, which means then that if a parent doesn't want their child in a public system, they can opt out, and they can homeschool their student, or they can send their student to a private school because we have a statute that says everybody must go to a public school unless they fall under an exception. One of the exceptions is private school, one of the exceptions is homeschool. But because of the way our money has been sort of hung up, parents who choose to opt out of the public system and go to a private school or homeschool have to pay again to pay for those options. Whereas our constitution right now says that all the monies that we pay in taxes that go in trust to the government is supposed to be spent on all of our children. All of our children are Oregon's children, they deserve a good education. But unfortunately, the money is not following them to whatever setting that they're actually getting their education. So you have public schools, you have charter schools, and then you have private schools and homeschools, where the parents have to pay twice. And our charter schools are somewhat limited. And in order to go from an assigned public school to a different public school or charter, you basically have to get permission of the school that you're assigned to. And then also permission from the school that you want to go to. And oftentimes, that's a very difficult endeavor. Now you can pay the new school that you want to go to, but again, parents usually can't afford to do that. So what we're trying to do is remove those barriers, remove the financial limitations, and the boundaries and allow parents to freely choose which learning environment works best for their child, whether it's public school, private school, charter school, homeschool, whichever is the environment where the child can reach their full potential. That's where that child should be going. And the money shouldn't be an obstacle.
Michael Sipe 8:10
So talk to us about your proposals, then in a little bit more detail. So let's start with the open enrollment amendment. What are the key aspects of this? And what do you see the benefits will be?
Speaker 1 8:22
The open enrollment is a wonderful thing. We had open enrollment, legislatively from 2012 to 2019. But unfortunately, the legislature let it lapse. So what we're trying to do is bring back the idea of open enrollment, but make it even better, what we're trying to do is allow parents to choose any public school, or any charter school that has room and that their child would be better served going to, so they won't have to worry about boundaries, they won't have to worry about getting permission, they will just decide, okay, I was assigned to this school, public school a, but my child will be better served over here at Public School B. So if Public School B or Charter School B has available space, then the child will be able to go there. What we're not doing is telling the public school or the charter school, to change anything about how they teach, because we feel that it's important to give parents a choice, and not tell any particular school system to change. But what we're also wanting to make sure is that it's as easy as possible for parents to find out which schools have space, and to then fill out a form that's universal across all the different schools available easily on all the schools websites. And they'll able be able to choose then which school they want to go to which school serves the needs of the children. We're also not making these public schools or charter schools financially burdened because we're not telling them Oh, we have a whole bunch of people that want to go there. So you're gonna have to build a second floor or add a modular building. No, what we're trying to do is make sure that if there's space available in these schools, that parents are able to go to those pools, and that will help the public school teachers because then they'll have more students available, which will give them more jobs, some stability. We're not trying to tell them to change, but we're giving parents the ability to freely choose. So the open enrollment basically says, Hey, parents, anytime of the school year, you can look across the whole state and decide which public or charter works best for your child. If that school has room, you get to go there, your child gets to go there.
Michael Sipe 10:29
That's really helpful. How about the school choice amendment? Because you're forwarding two amendments, you've got the open enrollment amendment, and you also have the school choice amendments. So what are the key aspects of the school choice amendment and what do you see the benefits will be for that.
Speaker 1 10:44
So the school choice amendment, we view basically as the other side of the same coin, we're bringing both of these amendments to give parents the full smorgasbord to make sure parents have all of the choices available in front of them. So for those parents who want to opt out of the public school system, they can then give a notice that says, hey, I'm out of the public school system, I would like to have some of my tax money back. And I would like to use that to customize the education for my child. So we're having that money be available to them to spend on private school tuition, uniforms, transportation, homeschool, curricula, computers, after school educational programs, National Testing, all the kinds of costs, education, therapy, tutors, all the kinds of things that a parent would want to customize for their particular child. Oftentimes, parents might be familiar with what's called a voucher, which is the earlier version of what we're doing, we're doing the 2.0 version, which is an education savings account, which really enables the parent to fully use that money in a smorgasbord of different options. Once I've listed the tuition, the curriculum, computers, therapies, tutors, all those sorts of things, and make sure that their child gets the best education possible. And this is going to be helpful to all those parents who don't like what's happening in public school, or they think for whatever reason, a private or smaller environment would be better, or maybe they want their child at home. And they want to be able to, you know, work hands on with their child, maybe the child's learning environment needs to be different than what's used in a public school. So this is helping the parents who know their child well and know that their unique needs need a different environment. So a parent will receive approximately 7600 per child per year, the money will go from the state to an account, the parent chooses a nonprofit organization to administer the account. When the money goes from the state to the nonprofit, it stops being government money that legally cuts the tie between the state and the money. And then we build a brick wall between what the state can regulate, which was the private the public schools and the charter schools, and what the state cannot regulate, which is how the parents use this now not public money. So basically, we're saying that the state needs to let parents make these decisions, let parents make the choices of how this money is spent. And then the state cannot tell the parent what to do as far as education practices, choice of curriculum, their creed, the teacher qualifications or admission policies, because again, the whole point here is making sure we're giving parents the full choices. And the choices have to be the unique focus of these four environments, public school, charter school, private school homeschool, so we're making sure that those four different learning environments are able to stay with their focus with their goals with their education, standards and attainments so that parents can freely choose, and the children you can have a family that has four children, and a parent could decide that based on the needs of those children, you could have two of them at public school. One of them is homeschooled, and one of them is perhaps at a neighbor, neighboring private school, it just again depends on what that child needs to make sure that child can learn best for the child and reach their full learning potential. And what with the money what the parent is able to do in customizing it, they aren't spending all of the money in any given year, for example, that private tuition for kindergarten through eighth grade average is about $6,000. So that there's a possibility a parent would get 7600 per child but not spend it all. The excess would then roll over to the next year. And each year that they don't spend it all it will keep rolling forward so that when the child completes High School, if they have money left in the child's account, the child can then use that money in Oregon because it's taxpayer money from Oregon, and they can use that money to pay for college, university trade school or vocational school. So we're really trying to focus on making sure our children get the best education and that the money that we all pay in taxes is really up accounted for and used well, with the focus being making sure our kids get a good education.
Michael Sipe 15:06
This all sounds so common sense. I mean, if I can summarize it sounds to me like, but what if these two amendments were adopted into the Oregon Constitution? It sounds like parents and children would have the opportunity to choose to go to school wherever it was best for the kids. And that the money that the state collects in taxes would not be sequestered just into public and charter schools, but but at least some of it would be available to support the choice of other options like home school, or private school. Am I getting that right?
Speaker 1 15:42
Yes, it is very common sense. I'm not a tech person, I'm just sort of a, hey, what's the most practical, reasonable thing to do here. So when I was looking at the statutes that passed across the country, and the legislation that was proposed here in Oregon, I would take what was the most beneficial to parents, and children and teachers, and then leave out the other garbage, which was makes your eyes roll in the back of your head. And I would just focus on, let's make sure that all the tax money that we have all paid as taxpayers is used for its purpose, which is giving our kids a great education, making sure that it's accountable. And what we're also doing is we are allowing for an increase in per pupil spending in the public schools. So what's going to happen here is it's about $16,000, to educate a child in a public school. And when a child leaves a public school to use the school choice amendment and go over to a perhaps a private school or homeschool, they're only taking with them about $7,600. So the remainder, the difference between the 16,000 and the 76 remains in the public school system. There are fewer children at that point in the public school system, because a few of them have left to go to the private schools or homeschool. So the result is you have more money available for fewer students in the public schools. So the amount spendable on each individual child and the public school goes up. So it helps the children who remain in public schools. And it gives an ability for the children who leave the public schools to go customize their education. Studies have shown also in the last 30 years, that having private school choice around public schools, helps the public school teachers because a lot of these teachers are wonderful folks with a lot of skills. And sometimes right now they aren't valued by the public schools. But if they have the opportunity, because of private school choice, to go start their own school or go work at a private school, or become a tutor, then all of a sudden the public schools will say, hey, we want all these teachers to stay. So they will value the teachers more which translates oftentimes into higher pay. And it allows, of course, for the opportunity for a public school to respond to what the parents need, because instead of having a yellow school bus drive up in front of all the public schools, and unload 34 Kids, now some of these children will have the opportunity to leave, which will allow the public school to respond and say, We want all these 34 students to continue to come to this public school. So we better be listening to the concerns of parents and offering these students what skills that they do need to prosper in the world. So oftentimes, the ability of parents to have the choice to leave a public school is what helps a public school improve their performance. And we've shown we've seen in a lot of studies that public schools, improve the performance on tests, and also when the kids leave, then it reduces the overcrowding in public school rooms. But in addition, just having the ability, or the choice of determining where your child goes, allows parents, you know, important takeaways from this. And the polling also shows that a lot of times parents love their public schools, but they want to have the option, they may not actually exercise the option, but they want to have the option. And with these two amendments taken together, we can remove some of the barriers to how children are learning, allow children to freely move between these it's not just choose one and stay there you for a while you could go to a private school, maybe have some tutoring done and get up to speed and then go back to a public school or within a family. You can have children dispersed in all the different categories, but allowing parents the ability to know that they're being heard and that their choices are that matter and are important to the school administrators to work so that everybody wins. So parents basically get their needs met children get a better education, public school teachers are valued more. So it's a win across the board.
Michael Sipe 19:47
Well as as much as this makes sense. Obviously not everyone in the state agrees with you on the need for these amendments. Otherwise, we wouldn't have to have amendments. We'd already have open enrollment in school choice. So what are they Key objections that people have who are the stakeholders here? And why would there be resistance to your amendments?
Speaker 1 20:08
Well, there are government unions who like things the way they are, that, unfortunately don't understand how these were drafted to protect both public schools, private schools, parents, teachers, and so forth. All of the money that we pay is supposed to follow our children. The Oregon constitution right now says this money is for public education. Nowhere in the Oregon constitution does it say, hey, this money can only go to public schools, the phrase public schools actually isn't even mentioned in the constitution. So what we're trying to do is fulfill what's already in the Constitution, which is have this money be used wherever it needs to be used for our kids. But there are some people who want the current system, because they don't have the goals that we have, which is putting the children first putting the education of the children first, their goal is something different than that. There's also a misunderstanding among a lot of people that fear that a private school choice program will take money from the public school. But when you think about it, we have money in a pot, and it's for all of the Oregon kids, that won't change here in this situation, it might change which room they're getting their education in which room the money is going to whether it's a public classroom, a charter classroom, a living room, or a private school room, but it's still Oregon children getting Oregon money for education. So it's the same money following the children. And because of the difference between the cost to educate a child in a public school, versus how much is following a child to the private sector, there's actually increased per pupil money available in the public schools. So it's just a lot of misinformation, maybe some fear. But when we step back and cut all the noise away, parents love their children, grandparents love their children. We all know how important education is for our children and to make their lives better, which in turn makes our society better. So most people believe this is absolutely wonderful. We're used to choosing our doctor, we're used to choosing our grocery store. So it's the same concept here. We're choosing our education setting to make sure our kids get the best education possible.
Michael Sipe 22:20
Well, this is a great kind of a great grounding for what you're up to. So now that we have an overview of the proposed amendments, when are you looking to have them on the ballot? And what's the process to get them there?
Speaker 1 22:34
Well, the process we've already started, which was phase one, we collected sponsorship signatures last summer, we have the two amendments, we collected sponsorship ship signatures for those that put us into the state review process. We've come out of that where the Secretary of State acknowledges our two measures are constitutional. The Attorney General has issued a certified palette and ballot titles the Supreme Court has has instructed the Attorney General to issue those ballot titles to us. Then we went back to the Secretary of State and actually got the pieces of paper that we call the 10 line petition forms. We are now out and about all over Oregon collecting signatures, we need to get about 250,000 signatures for each of the amendments, each of the education measures to put them on the November of 2024 ballot. We're out collecting signatures all the summer, we would love volunteers to help us do that. And it's a simple process. And it's a fun process. We go to fairs, and rodeos and flower shows, and all those kinds of events. Apparently, there's even a salamander jumping contest. So whatever event is out there, we're going to try to have people there. And we just asked folks to sign the two measures. And then we'll gather those all up by the end of June 2024. We'll submit them back to the Secretary of State, they'll do a statistical test to make sure we have enough that will put us on the ballot, then the public will be able to vote. And it's we need 50% plus one to pass. And the thing to keep in mind here too is in addition to all the benefits of making sure that parents are able to choose and children are getting a good education. We are doing it in Oregon as a constitutional amendment. That's different than every other state. All the other states have brought legislative measures that become statutes. That meant that at the time they came through the legislature, the legislature was understanding of how important the ability of a parent to choose the learning environment was. In Oregon. We don't have that ability. Our legislature is not going to approve any legislative or statutory measure to enable parents to have these choices and improve the education of our children. So we chose the route of a citizen initiative constitutional measure, which means we bypass the legislature we bypass the government. We wrote it as parents for pay Parents and for students and for teachers. So we are going then in front of the public in November of 24. To say, these measures taken together will allow parents to choose the best learning environment for their children to make sure the money that we all pay in taxes is doing its purpose, which is getting our kids a great education. We don't have to have the legislature's signing on or voting on it, we can't, and we won't have the governor vetoing it, this is a measure that's for people, by the people, and so the public will be voting on it. So that's what causes us then to need to spend a lot of money and time to go out in the public and say, Hey, this is what we're doing. These are the benefits, these are the protections, and that costs a lot of money. So we need to have donations from folks, because we know that it's a very costly process to educate everybody and let them know. And we're making sure that once our amendments pass the provisions and protections of our amendments go into the Constitution. And then once in the Constitution, they will nullify existing laws that conflict, and they will prevent future laws that try to conflict. So these protections for parents and teachers and students will be there for the duration of these children's education. Because we want to make sure that all children get a good education that all parents get to choose the environment that works for them, that teachers are valued and have the ability to teach where they want, and in the best manner that they can. So it helps all of Oregon, we want to make sure that the measures that we're bringing with these protections remain in place. The other states that have statutory measures are always at risk that a new legislation will come through that either takes out protections or puts in a bomb or a Trojan horse, and then obliterates and no longer protects a parent or a private school or a teacher. Ours is the only one in the country that is going to be constitutional with these protections, ironclad into the Constitution. And so we're protecting parents here in Oregon, because it's so important that Oregon students get the best education.
Michael Sipe 27:07
So if someone wants to sign the petition, to help get the amendments on the ballot, how would they go about doing that?
Speaker 1 27:13
They can go to our website, education freedom for oregon.com. And there's a pulldown tab that says pet petitions, there are two ways you can do it. One is what's called a single signer, you print the single sign of page for each amendment, and you have to sign it like twice and put your address and then you mail it back to me. The other way is what we call a 10 liner, where you can print that out, you can sign it for yourself. And then you could go ask your other people in your household that are active registered voters, you can walk up and down your street, you can sign up to be a volunteer and come help us at the fairs and the gun shows and the flower shows and rodeos and all sorts of things and meet all the rest of us. We have t shirts, we have feather flags, we have lots of posters and materials that we help you with and provide for our volunteers so that they know what they're doing. We answer questions. We have a zoom call every Monday night to help the volunteers understand the process share questions, they have given them answers give them updates. So it's a it's a big community. We're powered by parents, grandparents, neighbors, aunts, uncles, everybody who loves their children and wants to make sure that our kids get the best education.
Michael Sipe 28:28
It sounds like regardless of whether someone wants to sign a petition, donate money to help volunteer to help, whatever, get engaged. However, it sounds like the entry point really is education freedom for oregon.com. Is that right?
Speaker 1 28:43
Yes, that's our website. There's a lot of information there. They can also email me at info at education freedom for oregon.com. So we'd love volunteers, we would love anybody that can come help us. It's a lot of fun. We're doing this for kids, my kids are grown. So I'm doing this for kids, I don't know and probably will never know. Because it's work that we need to do. Because our kids are so important. And it's for all the Oregon kids. And so we all believe and love our kids. It's a fun thing to be involved with. And we're powered, as I say by other moms and dads and grandparents and teachers. And so it's just it's a fun environment to be involved with knowing that we're going to be helping our kids.
Michael Sipe 29:25
Don, it's been great having you on the show as we wrap up here. Several takeaways, but I think the main ones I have are just what a common sense approach you've taken to this. I mean, it's just like really logical. And it's really unless there's a you know, a vested interest somewhere from the perspective of, of regular parents, you know, kids, administrators, teachers, all of that. It just seems to make a lot of sense. I like the fact that it's not political in nature and that it's it's just About the kids and, and I also like the fact that it that it really follows the currenty intent of what I believe is in the Constitution, that our tax dollars that are earmarked for all kids in Oregon go to places where all kids in Oregon can access them. So I think it's, I think it's a great approach. And I'm really appreciative of your hard work to do it. I know it is a lot of work. And I encourage our listeners to go on to the website and pitch in however you can. So thanks for your time. And your message today, Don, and I wish you well in your quest to improve public education in Oregon and care for our kids.
Speaker 1 30:40
Thank you so much for having me, Michael. I appreciate it. And I appreciate being able to share our message with all of your listeners.
Michael Sipe 30:47
You bet my guest today has been done a Kreisberg. You can find out more about Donna and the amendments she's working for at education freedom for oregon.com. That's education freedom for oregon.com. Thanks for tuning in.
Thanks for listening to cascade views with Michael SIPE. To find out more about Mike 10x catalyst groups and to hear additional cascade views episodes visit 10x groups.com. That's 10x groups.com you can secure your own copy of Michael SIPE best selling book the Avada email@example.com. And finally, please continue to get informed and actively engage in serving our Central Oregon Community. Your Voice Matters