Sauvie Island Academy students travel to Salem to address legislators

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Sauvie Island Academy students Austin Hayes (left) and Haylee Hopkins (right) stand next to state Se. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose (center), last Thursday, Feb. 27, in Salem. Two Sauvie Island Academy students were given the opportunity to speak in front of state legislators in Salem Thursday, Feb. 27, including an address to state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose.

Eighth graders Austin Hayes and Haylee Hopkins spoke to legislators regarding what they described as inequitable funding for students who choose to attend public charter schools in Oregon.

Charter schools sponsored by their respective school districts receive 80 percent of what their public school counterparts receive per student.

“Every student has a calculated value that goes to their school for funding,” Hayes said. “We’re trying to make it more fair for charter schools.”

Scappoose School District Superintendent Stephen Jupe acknowledged the difference in state allocations between charter and public schools, but noted that public schools have extra costs.

“There are a lot of expenses the district has to incur that aren’t necessarily incurred by the charter school,” Jupe said, adding that the charter school can go out for all the same grants the district’s other schools can.

Hayes provided an example of the difference between what a Sauvie Island Academy student would bring in compared to a Grant Watts Elementary School student.

“A third-grade student brings $1,300 more to Grant Watts than to Sauvie Island for a third-grade student here,” Hayes explained, “That’s $1,300 per student that we’re not receiving.”

The students explained to senators that giving up 20 percent of their funds made them feel their education was somehow less important than the education of students who attended their neighborhood schools, said Darla Meeuwsen, executive director of Sauvie Island Academy. Meeuwsen said the students also asked the committee why a student’s choice to attend a public charter school is treated differently than a student who chooses to use the open-enrollment option.

“I went up to them and told them it’s a place-based education school and that’s why I like it,” said Hopkins. “So I went up there and I told them about that and why we should be able to get 100 percent of the funding.”

“I was so proud to see how well-spoken and mature our students were in voicing their concerns,” Meeuwsen said.

Hayes and Hopkins said they hadn’t been to Salem before and enjoyed seeing the Oregon State Capitol building.

“I’d never been before,” Hopkins said. “It was neat. I was really nervous, but other than that, it was really cool.”

Hayes said he and Hopkins will likely return to Salem within the next few weeks to bring the issue to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means.

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