In 2012, the Oregon Constitution was amended to eliminate an elected Chief of Public Instruction and put that authority directly in the governor’s office. Gov. Kate Brown has been Oregon governor since 2015.
Gov. Brown has taken many actions that have undermined the public’s trust in public schooling while simultaneously causing many Oregon parents to consider homeschooling.
In 2016, she changed Sex Education to Sexuality Education. This meant the scope of education expanded from teaching children about the birds and the bees to teaching them that boys might be girls and girls might be boys. This was a major change from what was historically taught in health class.
Then COVID-19 came on the scene. On March 23, 2020, Gov. Brown shut all public schools with her “Stay Home” order. On April 8, Brown shut down Oregon public schools for the rest of the school year. Students from kindergarten through high school would be taught remotely. This immediately caused a day care crisis for many families, especially those where both parents work outside the home during the day.
Oregon public schools have been around for over 100 years in most areas. Yet most had no plan to teach remotely. The governor’s school shutdown order was implemented anyway. What did that do?
First, parents could watch what was being taught to their children and how the teacher taught it. Some parents observed effective teachers who know their topic, engage their students and effectively answer questions. Yet others were observed who weren’t the best teachers in the classroom much less from a distance. What had long been hidden in the classroom was now in full parental view.
Second, the parents watched their kids being taught on Zoom. This is not the best way to keep fifth-grade boys occupied and interested. “Attendance” plummeted as a result. Who knows what happened when Sexuality Education was the topic of the day? That would be awkward. Yet informative.
Now, of course, having three elementary kids on three different iPads on three simultaneous Zoom calls is not what homeschooling is all about. However, parents were at home and were helping their children. Gov. Brown gave hundreds of thousands of parents a “free sample” of home education. This experience has contributed to an increase in homeschooling in the state of Oregon.
The governor eventually let students return to the classroom but with mask requirements and social distancing. Tough to teach with students six feet apart. Very tough to frown at a bored fifth grader when he can’t see most of the teacher’s face. Socialization suffered between students because you couldn’t see people smile or frown – or laugh. Many people had a really hard time communicating. Ironically, lack of socialization used to be a criticism of homeschooling.
Fears spread about COVID-19 and whether or not the students were safe. Parents had varied opinions on what made schooling safe. Some parents thought the masks were not safe and didn’t want their children to wear one. Other parents thought that every student should be mandated to wear a mask. Some parents concluded, “If they make the kids wear masks, I’m homeschooling.” Other parents concluded, “If they don’t make the kids wear masks, I’m homeschooling.”
Things got worse in 2021 when COVID-19 vaccinations came on the scene. Gov. Brown pushed the vaccines hard. Now you had parents and teachers and administrators who really supported vaccinations. Others felt differently. Then the governor declared a vaccination mandate for all educators. While making many happy, this mandate caused many teachers to leave the scene.
The Oregonian reported on Oct. 19, 2021, “Oregon temporarily drops college degree requirement for substitute teachers to alleviate shortage.”
Also this year Gov. Brown signed a bill passed by the Democrat-controlled legislature that eliminated high school graduation academic proficiency requirements for the next five years. Now students can graduate from high school without proving academic proficiency … and then apply to be a substitute teacher.
Students can now graduate from high school without being proficient in reading, writing and mathematics. Local high school requirements have been updated to reflect this new law.
Taken together, Gov. Brown has reduced academic standards for high school graduation, eliminated public school as a day care option during the pandemic, and reduced socialization by masking and social distancing mandates. These actions have undermined the public’s trust of the public school system. They encouraged parents to explore other educational options such as private schools and homeschooling.
By her actions, Kate Brown has done more to increase homeschooling than any governor in Oregon history.
Is Gov. Brown a homeschooling advocate?