Steve Brand on PPS Segregation in Today’s Oregonian

by Steve, July 19th, 2007

Chapman Elementary teacher Steve Brand has an opinion piece in today’s Oregonian about how school transfers are segregating our schools. He correctly identifies this problem, but doesn’t go very far in identifying a solution. Mostly he just chides middle class families for buying homes in up-and-coming neighborhoods but not sending their kids to the neighborhood schools.

But he stops short of calling for an overhaul of the self-reinforcing transfer policy that encourages this middle class flight and progressively damages our already struggling schools.

Brand is absolutely correct that high-quality teaching is available at schools tagged “low-performing”. But until the district identifies it as a priority to reinvest in lower-income neighborhoods, no amount of cajoling is going to fix the problem. As I wrote yesterday, we need a New Deal for Portland Public Schools.

3 Responses to “Steve Brand on PPS Segregation in Today’s Oregonian”

  1. Comment from Zarwen:


    Can you be more specific about how PPS should “reinvest in lower-income neighborhoods”? As I recall, Humboldt and Jefferson receive the most $ per student in the entire district. And I am talking about PPS budget $, not Gates Grant $. If all that $ has not fixed the problem, then what kind of “reinvestment” are you recommending?

  2. Comment from beaumontwilshireresident:

    Mr. Brand is some great genius – calling the neighbors in the Beaumont-Wilshire neighborhood basically gentrifying racists (can you hear the thick sarcasm?). As he teaches on the Westside of Portland and obviously does not live in our area, he has no clue about the make-up, long history or all the reasons behind why the neighbors here are battling the school board. I have lived in this neighborhood for over eight years. When I moved in 8 years ago it was not in need of gentrification – it was not ‘up and coming’ and has not changed much in 8 years, except for the school boundaries. When we bought this house, it was within the Meek Elementary School boundary. Meek, which was in the Madison High School cluster, was closed about 4 years ago. We neighbors are merely pointing out to the school board that when they closed Meek 4 years ago (with very little community input) – that they should have taken a look at the school boundaries, instead of pumping Meek’s entire attendance area into Vernon. For most residents in the neighborhood, Vernon is at least the fourth closest (in some cases the fifth closest) Portland Public elementary school. As someone who likes to think green and recycle, I find it appalling that the district is bussing kids so far away from their homes. My home is literally a four block walk to Beaumont Middle School. Does it make sense to bus my kid across town, when he could walk? We are an entire little league, neighborhood association, soccer club and so much more. We do not understand why the district has chosen to divide us by school boundaries. This issue is not about race or socio-economic status as Mr. Brand thinks. It’s about having our kids go to a school that’s actually in our neighborhood, or very nearby; AND getting greater parent and community involvement for the school because it’s actually in our community and not so far away.

    How can Mr. Brand say that we are abandoning Vernon, when in reality, for the most part, we never fully accepted Vernon. When Meek closed (2003) there were 219 students enrolled. The year after Meek closed (2004), Vernon’s enrollment increased by only 40 students. Our hand collected census data shows this disconnection between neighborhood and school continues a whopping four years later. Fully 45% of the school-age kids in our neighborhood already transfer into Alameda, Beaumont or Grant. 15% were home-schooled or attended a private school. Only 7% attended our assigned schools: Vernon, Tubman or Jefferson. The remaining children transfer into other Portland Public schools. When Rose City was closed, the district looked at the boundaries and divided the attendance area up, so that kids where going to closer neighborhood schools – This is all we are asking be done in our neighborhood.

    The last time boundaries were comprehensively reviewed was when they changed from K-8 to the middle school model. Portland Public has made some really drastic changes in the last five years. They’ve closed many schools and changed many more to K-8. Maybe it’s time to look at boundaries district-wide again.

  3. Comment from beaumontwilshireresident:

    Oh and the long history in a nut shell is that for at least 30 years we were part of the Grant High School cluster. Then for about 15 years we were part of the Madison High School cluster. Now we are part of the Jefferson High School cluster (last 4 years).