PPS Divestment by Neighborhood, Illustrated

by Steve, August 24th, 2007

schoolsI’ve written before about how Portland Public Schools’ open transfer policy causes segregation and divestment of state tax revenue from poor neighborhoods and funnels it to wealthier neighborhoods. I’ve called for a New Deal for PPS that will and redirect state funding to reinvest in these neighborhoods.

My harping on these points has caused some confusion. After all, doesn’t PPS actually spend more per student in the poorer schools? Yes, of course they do. But the point is that as families take advantage of PPS’s open transfer policy, millions of dollars follow them out of poorer neighborhoods, landing in the wealthier, whiter neighborhoods. Left in their wake are segregated schools with fewer “specials”, electives and extra-curricular activities, and under constant threat of closure, No Child Left Behind sanctions, and “reorganization” (read charter schools, alternative schools, and ill-advised grant-funded experiments).

Below is a map illustrating the reverse-Robin Hood pattern of divestment in Portland’s neighborhoods. Areas of red had a net loss of funding when compared to area PPS student population in 2006-07 (that is, of all PPS students living in the attendance areas of schools in that ZIP code, fewer actually attend schools in that ZIP code). The areas of green had a net gain. The darker the color, the greater the loss or gain. The gray areas were close enough to call “gray” (+/- $200,000 per year); 97204 (in white) has no schools.

(Click map for a larger view.)neighborhooddivestment-thmb.png

The big winner in the PPS funding switcheroo is 97232, largely due to the presence of Benson and da Vinci (which, as special focus schools, do not have attendance areas). This part of Portland gained an additional $8.9 million in state funding last school year.

Other areas of note are 97214, the beneficiary of an extra $3.1 million, 97209 at $2 million, 97202 at $1.6 million, 97212 at $2 million, and 97215 at $1 million.

The losers, as most of us not in the “green zone” are already painfully aware, are stuck footing the bill. North Portland’s 97217 has bled the most, with a loss of $8.2 million last school year. Over in St. Johns, in 97203, they lost $5.7 million. Outer Northeast’s 97213 lost $1.7 million. Out in the nether-reaches of the east-side, 97216 lost $2 million, 97206 lost $2.7 million, and 97220 lost a whopping $4.3 million. There are more.

This is the legacy of Portland Public Schools’ open transfer policy: Segregated schools and divestment from working-class neighborhoods.

It’s time our school leaders acknowledge that this policy is flawed at best. Unfortunately, recent leadership foibles have only exacerbated the problems.

We have a unique opportunity in Portland, with its thriving and integrated urban neighborhoods, to create a truly equitable and integrated system of neighborhood public schools. The first step is to correct this funding imbalance, and guarantee that every neighborhood school offers opportunities on par with every other neighborhood school. Nothing less will do.

Source and methodology notes: All statistics are gathered from Portland Public Schools 2006-2007 Enrollment Profiles. (I have extracted the PPS data to a single spread sheet in order to more easily collate the data.)

School funding loss/gain is computed by subtracting the neighborhood PPS population from the number of students attending the school, then multiplying it by the budget per student at that school. For example, at Ainsworth, there were 509 students, 317 PPS students in the attendance area, and $4334 spent per student. So (509-317)*4334 = $832,128.

Schools like Marshall High, with multiple schools within the school, were calculated as follows. First I computed the total spent in the entire school by multiplying the number of students in each sub-school by that sub-school’s budget per student. Then I calculated a per-student budget for the entire school, and used that number as a multiplier of the difference between the total school population and the attendance area PPS population.

PPS does not publish funding per student for its charter schools, so it is impossible to include them in this study.

Net losses and gains do not add up to zero, because of differences in per-pupil funding by school.

I may have made some mistakes along the way, either in extracting the data, collating them, or in putting them on the map. If you find any errors, I’d appreciate hearing about them!

17 Responses to “PPS Divestment by Neighborhood, Illustrated”

  1. Comment from marcia:

    Thanks for the visual. and for your hard work in compiling the data. I did notice one little error, or at least I think it is an error. Down at the bottom close to SW Vermont, you have the area listed as 97217. …The other 97217 is correctly placed in North Portland. Thanks for your hard work.

  2. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Wow, fabulous map. One of the best visuals I have seen in my 32 years of closely following PPS. You make a great case. If they are going to keep the transfer policy then they need to recognize the increased needs in the lower economic neighborhoods and seriously address them. The only other fair alternative is to drop the policy altogether. How do you think NCLB plays into the elimination of the transfer policy?

  3. Comment from Terry:

    Nice map. Great idea for using it as a visual to illustrate Portland’s two tiered educational system, especially as you follow the red south to north counter-clockwise from the Marshall cluster through the Madison, Jefferson and Roosevelt clusters. I’ve been saying that for years, but the visual really drives it home.

    I think sometime this year we ought to take a similar map showing school locations and relative SES and ethnicity of affected neighborhoods to the school board. Shove it in their faces, so to speak, and then demand a response, not just the deafening silence citizen testimony is typically subjected to. I’d be happy to help work on such a display.

  4. Comment from Himself:

    Marcia, thanks for the correction. That’s supposed to be 97219, home of Wilson. I’ll get a corrected version up in the next few days.

    Steve, NCLB is a tough nut. It needs to be subverted. If we have to create new “schools” within existing buildings to do so, so be it. It would be in the supposed spirit of the law after all, in that it would benefit low-income and minority children.

    Terry, I looked at a ton of demographic data when I was putting this together, but figured it would be information overload to include it. Most of us in Portland know where the money’s at, so I figured this would be a good first cut.

  5. Comment from A Reader:

    FYI, you zip code map is incorrect. The zip codes are geographically wrong. On your map you have labeled 97206 but is should be actually 97266

  6. Comment from Himself:

    “A Reader”: thanks for the correction. I’ll have a corrected map up soon. The spread sheet has all the ZIPs correct, I believe.

  7. Comment from Hope:

    Excellent visual illustrating one of the root causes of the so-called “achievement gap”. I hope this will make it harder for the school board and other Portland leaders to ignore that we have an inequitable education system. When policies allow and even encourage this amount of education to flow out of low income and minority neighborhoods how can the policy makers expect those schools to perform as well.

    PPS leaders often like to claim that it is NCLB and not the PPS transfer policies that lead to this level of divestment from low income and minority neighborhood schools. One way to show that is not true might be to display the same information on a map just for elementary schools. Since most (or all?) PPS elementary schools are meeting AYP (adequate yearly progress) and therefore do not require transfers under NCLB, the resulting transfers and loss of funding would be due to PPS policies alone.

  8. Comment from Hope:

    correction:
    I meant to say, “When policies allow and even encourage this amount of education FUNDING to flow out of low income and minority neighborhoods how can the policy makers expect those schools to perform as well.”

  9. Comment from Ruth Adkins:

    Thanks for this post and for your analysis & concern about this major issue. Just a quick note to let you know that we at the school district are working on this — PPS’s enrollment/transfer office has been evaluating the impact of transfers (looking at race, socioeconomic status, enrollment numbers, student outcomes, impact on neighborhood schools, etc.) districtwide, and has also been conducting focus groups and a survey on the (very complex) issue of enrollment/transfers. This info will be coming to the Board/public shortly this fall and there will be a community process to talk openly about these issues and hear/discuss concerns/ideas so that we can decide how to proceed in terms of any changes to the policy. Stay tuned!

    The bedrock value for us, as a district, is that *every* neighborhood school provide a high-quality education, so that those who do transfer are truly going *to* a unique/alternative program that has special value to them rather than away from a lesser quality school–whether in perception or reality. Where it is a matter of perception, let’s work on creative ways to get the word out and to get young families inside our buildings to see the great things happening. Where it is reality (eg fundraising inequities) we have to figure out a way to level the playing field. There have been a lot of changes in the district in the last few years and right now we need to focus on making sure our schools and programs that are in place are successful for all our kids, regardless of where they live.

  10. Comment from Himself:

    Ruth, thanks for the comment.

    Is there any political will on the board to seriously consider curtailing neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers? If we’re really talking about neighborhood funding equity, and equal access to electives, specials and extra-curricular activities in every neighborhood school, why would transfers to different neighborhood schools be necessary?

    I have a block about “work[ing] on creative ways to get the word out and to get young families inside our buildings to see the great things happening”. It is PPS policy that encourages transfers out, and every transfer out encourages more. You can’t blame the families for fleeing once the majority of the neighborhood PPS population already has, and it seems foolhardy to expend resources trying to lure them back.

    Open transfers have demonstrably led to segregation and neighborhood funding inequities. Ending these things is a simple matter of reversing that policy. The issue isn’t really all that complex.

    The complex part is mustering the political will.

  11. Comment from Oregonian37:

    Himself,
    I am completely new to most of this topic but I saw your post on another blog. In basic terms, when you say disinvestment, does that mean that basically the money is following students who choose to go to another school, and lessening the funding for their homeschool? I live in 97217, almost right next to Jefferson. Having attended and worked at PCC across the street for 4 years, we always heard alot about Jeff because of connected programs with the college. I especially concur with your point above that if the schools were realistically offering equal programs and access, the neccessity of transferring to other neighborhoods would be a moot point.

  12. Pingback from Willamette Week | Wednesday, August 29th, 2007:

    [...] blog More Hockey Less War provides interesting analysis this week of Portland Public Schools’ open transfer policy, which (to [...]

  13. Comment from Himself:

    …when you say disinvestment, does that mean that basically the money is following students who choose to go to another school, and lessening the funding for their homeschool?

    Precisely. And note that this money is from the state general fund. PPS has the power to distribute this money in Portland, and their open transfer policy has resulted in spending more state money in rich neighborhoods than in poor ones. Even if you don’t have kids, or your kids don’t attend PPS, this issue affects everybody in Portland in terms of property values and quality of life.

    Do we want the school board to act as an agent to enrich the already wealthy? Or do we want them to be an agent for common good? That’s what this really comes down to.

  14. Comment from marcia:

    “PPS has the power to distribute this money in Portland, and their open transfer policy has resulted in spending more state money in rich neighborhoods than in poor ones.”
    And the inequity is increased when the richer schools have PTA auctions, etc. that raise thousands and thousands of dollars, which has enabled them to buy teachers and programs, while the poorer schools are scraping the bottom of the barrel and are left with nothing. This further weakens their attraction to families who want art, music, PE and counselors. With the K-8 reconfiguration, this glaring lack of programs has increased the drain from many neighborhood schools.

  15. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    “And the inequity is increased when the richer schools have PTA auctions, etc.”

    Totally. Then the wealthier schools justify keeping the lion’s share by saying, “Our parents wouldn’t donate if it wasn’t staying at our school. Besides, a cut goes to the Portland Schools Foundation, and they distribute to the poor schools, so what’s your problem?”

    The Portland Schools Foundation, as many already have figured out, does not “distribute” to the poor. They’re not handing out art teachers and computer labs. They make the poor write grants (ie — beg for it). And usually the grants don’t get written, because 1) grants are a pain in the ass to write, even the easy ones and 2) who wants to beg?

    The rich schools don’t mind begging, so much. They write grants, ask for some of their money back and get it. Double-dipping.

    When the poor schools do get money from the Foundation, it’s usually for “parent trainings.” How To Teach Your Parents to Cooperate, basically.

    The money cannot be used for teaching positions, playgrounds, computers… The whole thing is a mess.

  16. Comment from Zarwen:

    “We have a unique opportunity in Portland, with its thriving and integrated urban neighborhoods, to create a truly equitable and integrated system of neighborhood public schools. The first step is to correct this funding imbalance, and guarantee that every neighborhood school offers opportunities on par with every other neighborhood school. Nothing less will do.”

    Hockeygod and others:

    In spite of Ruth Adkins’ post, one piece of data missing from this thread is that the PPS Board (prior to Ruth’s election) has ALREADY approved increasing enrollment at magnets/charters over the next 5 years by 1600-2000 students. I crunched the numbers myself, based on info from the PPS website. It tells me that this Board is NOT committed to improving neighborhood schools–on the contrary, I believe their long-range plan (originally hatched by VP) is to eliminate them! in the red zone, anyway, as that is most of these new programs will be. Let us also not forget that VP tried to move Winterhaven out to the red zone less than a year ago.

    The incredible upshot of all this is that “neighborhood schools” will become something for the well-to-do who can afford housing near one. Magnets and charters, which used to be associated with wealth and privilege, will become the norm in low-income areas because all the neighborhood schools in those areas will eventually be closed. A very strange way to run a school district.

  17. Pingback from Willamette Week | Thursday, October 11th, 2007:

    [...] Hockey Less War’s discussion from August of the effects of Portland Public Schools’ open transfer policy, below are a few maps from the school district illustrating what blogger Steve Rawley outlined [...]