PPS Divestment by Cluster

by Steve, September 3rd, 2007

Thanks to reader Zarwen, who pointed out that my ZIP code map was a little fuzzy around the edges. This prompted me to spend some time collating the PPS attendance data by cluster. The result is a more accurate (if not substantially different) view of how Portland Public Schools’ open transfer policy has created a two-tiered school system by unevenly distributing state general fund money around the city.

The pattern is the same: massive divestment in working class and poor neighborhoods, with those funds reinvested in the hottest real estate markets of Portland.

(Click on image for full-size view.)

I’ve based this on the exact same as the ZIP code map, but I’ve reorganized the data by cluster instead of ZIP. Have a look at the reorganized spread sheet if you’re as nuts for numbers as me.

Methodology for this map is the same as for the ZIP code map. That is, for each school, I subtract the number of PPS students in the attendance area from the number of students at the school and multiply the result by that school’s budget per student. I then totaled these numbers for each cluster. For the sake of this map, I’ve included Benson in the Cleveland cluster, since it is physically within the attendance area.

So no new conclusions here, folks, but hopefully a more accurate view of what I’ve been talking about. The next time somebody talks to you about “failing schools” in our poverty-affected neighborhoods, you might want to point out that you get what you pay for.

Edited to say: Hey, happy Labor Day! I hope you got a paid holiday, and if not, I hope you got time and a half or a comp day. If not, well, damn, I’m really sorry. Anyway, here’s to all us working folks who create all the wealth in the world and keep the economy humming. Cheers!

54 Responses to “PPS Divestment by Cluster”

  1. Comment from Zarwen:

    Wow, Hockeygod, I am really impressed that you put this together so quickly. I hope you didn’t stay up all night doing it!

    This version would be even more telling with the Board members superimposed on it!

    Once again, thank you for doing this. And Happy Labor Day to you, too.

  2. Comment from George Plizinotski:

    Does this whining really make a difference?

  3. Comment from Steve Buel:

    George, information is not whining. And it is important that people begin to realize the shortchanging of lower economic children’s education (since really they can’t fend for themselves).

  4. Comment from Hmm:

    Money moves with students, right?

    Which means that students are moving out of these schools into schools in the “better” part of town, right?

    What exactly would you say to a parent in one of your red zones who wants her kid to transfer to a school she thinks would be better for him?

    Sorry, you can only send your kid to school in the part of town you can afford to live in? If you can’t live next to David Wynde, you can’t send your kid to school with his?

    there are problems with school choice. But your map seems to say that it is actually important to a lot of individual families in low-income neighborhoods. I don’t think i’d want to advocate taking their choices away from them.

    unless you think you know what they need better than they do…

  5. Comment from Himself:

    What’s wrong with making sure every neighborhood has a school that is no better and no worse than any other neighborhood?

    Why should only wealthy neighborhoods have good schools?

    I happen to live in the red zone. I don’t want to have to drive my kids across town to find a decent school. We have the infrastructure and demographics in place to have equity and integration. Open transfers cause inequity and segregation.

    The reality is that poor kids don’t transfer. It’s the middle and upper middle class kids who do. This skimming (noted by the Flynn-Blackmer audit) doesn’t do poor kids any favors, and neither does “School Choice” when they can’t afford the transportation to take advantage of it.

    The only fair thing to do is provide equitable schools in every neighborhood. First remove every legitimate reason to transfer, then remove the ability to transfer.

  6. Comment from Hmm:

    “We have the infrastructure and demographics in place to have equity and integration. Open transfers cause inequity and segregation.”


    I’m not sure that I believe either part of that statement.

    Do we REALLY have enough good teachers to have good schools in every neighborhood? I don’t think so. I think we have many good teachers, some excellent ones, and some stinkers. Teachers are “infrastructure”, too. The most important part, methinks.

    I do not know of a place on earth with more than one school where all of the schools are equal. We can work for equal (public) funding (but as long as it is still legal for parents to donate time and money to improving schools, there will be unequal resources coming from that quarter). We can work at improving transportation options. We can work at educating all parents as to how they can improve the schools their kids attend. These are goals I can get behind.

    I’m not sure I can even imagine a plan that would “remove every legitimate reason to transfer” that I could support, however. Seems to me the only realistic way to do that would be to make all schools uniformly awful.

  7. Comment from Himself:

    I do not know of a place on earth with more than one school where all of the schools are equal.

    Beaverton elementary schools.

    I’m not sure I can even imagine a plan that would “remove every legitimate reason to transfer” that I could support, however.

    Which illegitimate reasons for transfer do you wish to keep?

    Seems to me the only realistic way to do that would be to make all schools uniformly awful.

    That’s a very cynical viewpoint, which I don’t share. We have enough teachers. There are plenty that have been laid off due to school closures.

    We have the same kind of money Beaverton has, similar demographics, too. We have adequate, well-situated real estate, and a relatively integrated (and becoming more so) demographic.

    In 5 years we can significantly reduce racial and economic isolation, and achieve perfect equity in neighborhood public investment simply by eliminating neighborhood-to-neigbhorhood transfers. (I’m not talking about eliminating magnet and special focus programs.) I don’t know of any other legal way to achieve this. Do you?

    If you’re in favor of wealthy neighborhoods receiving public investment disproportionate to their population at the expense of poorer neighborhoods, please come right out and say so. It’s a legitimate position, even if I happen to disagree with it.

    Let’s please speak directly to the point.

    I’d like to see the board vote on that.

  8. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Here’s what I’d like to say: Share the fucking wealth.

  9. Comment from Hmm:

    “If you’re in favor of wealthy neighborhoods receiving public investment disproportionate to their population at the expense of poorer neighborhoods, please come right out and say so. It’s a legitimate position, even if I happen to disagree with it.”

    Not at all.

    Currently, funding follows students. We could change that, and probably should. You want strong neighborhood schools? Pick the schools you want to strengthen, and remove them from the enrollment-based funding system that we currently have. Good luck selling that, but it’s at least a solution that doesn’t come at the expense of parents who are trying to figure out how to do what is right for their own kid.

    But what I can’t get behind is telling parents that want to keep their kids in the public school system that they can’t move their kid out of a school that is terrible, because “In 5 years we can significantly reduce racial and economic isolation, and achieve perfect equity in neighborhood public investment” by doing so.

    In 5 years, most kids will have matriculated all or most the way through a school. So by eliminating transfers, you tell the kids in a terrible school that hey, sorry, we need you to have a terrible experience here, so that the greater public good can be achieved.

    And really, you’re only saying THAT to kids from lower-middle class and poor families. Upper-middle class and upper-class families will just shrug and send their kids to private schools.

    Transfers are only a problem in so far as they are tied to money, and to parent involvement.

  10. Comment from Himself:

    Is it legal to not have funding follow students?

  11. Comment from Hmm:

    I imagine it’s not. So we have to agitate to change law.

  12. Comment from Hmm:

    Actually, statewide, rural school districts get a larger share of education money on a per-student basis. So there’s some ability to tweak things.

    So let’s give your neighborhood school some designation, like “special investment zone school” and pump up the $$ per-student that all schools like yours get.

  13. Comment from Himself:

    Hey, if it were legal, how about funding stays in the neighborhoods where kids live. Transfers would naturally even out, as schools in the current green zone would have classes with 30-60 students and schools in the current red zone would have 10-20.

    I could get behind that, but it is of questionable legality.

    By the way, schools in the red zone do get more per student. But the overall pattern still shows some $40 million flowing out of our poorest neighborhoods.

    Your other proposal is basically magnet schools, which we’ve tried, and they’ve failed to make a dent in the divestment pattern. We’ve also tried to tweak the transfer policy to ameliorate the skimming effect. The Flynn-Blackmer audit shows that neither of these have helped, and that the district hasn’t shown any justification for open transfers in light of the fact that they openly conflict with district goals of strong neighborhood schools and ending racial isolation.

    I’m open to any legal ideas other than curtailing neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers, but honestly, I’m not hearing any.

    By the way, the fear of flight to private schools is overblown, and we’ve been beat about the head and shoulders with it for too long. Beaverton schools, with a similar size and demographic to ours have an extremely restrictive transfer policy, and they’re not hurting for enrollment. Portlanders have supported public education even through some very dark recent times. They will continue to do so.

  14. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Now I am not sure of what I am suggesting here but it is an interesting viewpoint on this funding follows students. If 10 students go from school A to school B and $8,000 follows each kid then it would seem school B could essentially add one teacher. And school B would essentially lose one teacher. (+ or – $80,000) Yet, if we figure 30 kids per class say, then school A’s class loads go up in other classes since they have one less teacher and only 10 fewer kids. But class loads in school B go down since they now have one more teacher and only 10 more kids. So the rich get disproportionately richer? Where does this reasoning not work? Gotta be someplace, right? Gotta be someplace.

  15. Comment from Steve Buel:

    P.S. Hmm, Vancouver and Evergreen, both about 40% the size of Portland have very equal schools. Not much complaining by the lower economic areas since their schools are pretty good.

  16. Comment from Zarwen:

    Hockeygod, you are probably correct about the fear of private schools being overblown, but the fear of SUBURBAN schools is not. Part of what is fueling the growth of suburbia is PPS families who are sick and tired of the lies and the runarounds and have voted with their feet. I personally know several families who have moved to the ‘burbs for better schools, and I bet every reader of this blog does too. If Beaverton, Vancouver, Lake Oswego and North Clackamas are able to get it right, it is all the more disgusting that the folks who run PPS are too arrogant to learn anything from our neighbors.

    We had a golden opportunity during the spring school board elections, but no one could be found from Zones 3 and 7 even to try. The reasons have been detailed elsewhere on this blog. Too much corruption!

  17. Comment from Himself:

    Zarwen, anecdotal evidence says you are correct, but demographic trends point to a revitalizing residential core in Portland. In my part of town (North Portland) we see new families moving in all the time. Most of them probably figure (like we did), well, how bad can the schools be? Or, a lot can change in the five years until my little woogums enters kindergarten. In our case, things didn’t get any better, and our little woogums is in third grade now.

    That said, Beaverton is looking better all the time. Or Iowa.

  18. Comment from marcia:

    As a north portlander, I can only say I hope you don’t leave. From my own personal experience, I can tell you that I felt similar feelings about the schools here. Then, when my daughter who had completed her freshman year at Lincoln decided she preferred the diversity of her neighborhood high school, Roosevelt, I tried to talk her out of it. Well, she did just fine…(except for the senior year when she was in the newly formed Spanish Immersion school (Gates grant) and couldn’t take Spanish because there was no teacher to teach the class…)…Long story short, she got a full ride scholarship to U of O, which I doubt would have happened at Lincoln. She received lots of attention from the teachers at Roosevelt, because they appreciated her attitude and she wanted to achieve.

  19. Comment from Zarwen:

    “. . . a revitalizing residential core in Portland. . . .”

    Shouldn’t someone tell the School Board and the PPS administration? They keep telling us that enrollment will continue to drop (read this just the other day in the O) and that they need to close/consolidate more schools (which they will then sell off to line the pockets of developers). How come you know about this and they don’t? Or are they just turning a deaf ear because they don’t want to hear anything that might divert them from their true mission: to enrich developers?

  20. Comment from marcia:

    Well..lll……actually……after closing all those schools…at the end of last year at one of the PAT meetings, it was announced that a new committee was forming at the district to study the possibility of passing a bond measure to build new schools….seems all of a sudden there was a need for some more schools? I think GWBush has some cousins running things here. Or maybe it’s just the village idiots somehow have gained control of the world.

  21. Comment from Zarwen:

    I know, Marcia, I was attempting to be facetious. But I really did read in the paper that PPS expects enrollment to continue dropping until 2012. So which one is it??? And WHERE do they intend to build anything? They’ve sold off the properties!!!!!

    Oh, let me guess–they’ll start buying them back at a loss?!!

  22. Comment from marcia:

    I know…I’ve read the same thing about enrollment continuing to go down….But it sure isn’t in my neighborhood…(Kenton)…where lots of new young families are buying homes and having babies….And where we lost our neighborhood school…Good questions…Where will they build them? …..My guess…NW or SW?

  23. Comment from Zarwen:

    Are there any available properties in those areas? And is that where the population is growing? Doesn’t make sense to build there unless that’s where the growth is.

  24. Comment from Himself:

    Zarwen, North Portland is the very redest zone of the entire red zone, and is the most “affordable” real estate market in the inner residential core of Portland.

    This area has shown remarkable growth and integration/gentrification over the last 7 years, and would seem like a part of town a wise school board would invest in, not divest from.

  25. Comment from Zarwen:

    Yet that is exactly what they have done. The closures of Tubman, Kenton and Applegate, along with a proposal to close Humboldt, have served to accelerate that process. (I know that Tubman is now a “girls academy,” but I think that is beside the point.)

    SW is another area in the “pink zone” that has also undergone accelerated divestiture due to the closure of Smith and the refusal of PPS to allow it to reopen as the SW Charter School (which is spearheaded by the parents from that neighborhood). Also the proposed closure of Rieke.

    Clarendon, Meek, Whitaker, Rose City Park, Wilcox, Youngson, Kellogg, Clark–is there a pattern here? (I know Kellogg is technically in the green zone, but it is also in an economically depressed neighborhood.) The only bona fide “green zone” closure was Edwards, which now houses a Head Start program run by MESD. Although Hollyrood and Winterhaven also were targeted for closure, but the parents fought back successfully.

    What can we extrapolate from this? That open transfers lead to schools closing? That lack of investment in poor neighborhoods leads to schools closing? That only well-off parents can be successful in opposing a school closure (although it didn’t work at Smith)? All of the above?

    You know, Hockeygod, it just struck me that something missing from your latest edition of the map are the CHARTER SCHOOLS. How many of THOSE are in the red zone???

    Thanks, Hockeygod–this is is getting more educational all the time.

  26. Comment from marcia:

    Thank you Zarwen! The charter school crap has my head spinning. I got a call yesterday from someone (?) on my answering machine inviting me to a meeting regarding the new St. Johns charter school…let’s see…we have Trillium…and the Village(at the old DeLaSalle site…and now this one in St. Johns…..are we the new New Orleans up here in North Portland? Any DATA Hockeygod?

  27. Comment from Himself:

    The enrollment data for charter schools does not include budget per student, so I wasn’t able to include them in my study. But I think the district gives the charter schools a flat amount per student.

    I could look into it, but in a way students in charter schools are lost to the system. They’re closer to being in private schools than the public system. Still, to be fair, they do represent public investment in the neighborhood (though not enough to change the divestment pattern significantly), and I wish PPS would provide the same enrollment data for them as they do for neighborhood schools.

  28. Comment from Jeff:

    North Portland Charter Schools:

    You mentioned Trillium, Portland Village (Waldorf), and the propsed new charter school in St. Johns.

    Don’t forget about SEI, and the proposed new invasive Ivy Charter School that organizers are planning to locate in North or Northeast. Plus we have multiple alternative schools in N Portland too including Meek, NAYA, Open Meadows and a few around Jefferson. Also in the Jeff cluster, a private catholic high school (De La Salle – funded by Gates and other private foundations) is expanding, thanks to a long-term lease from PPS, on the site of a recently closed public school.

    In N/NE Portland, PPS keeps investing in new charter schools, alternative schools, narrowly-focused Gates-funded small high schools, and now single sex 6-12th grade academies, but they have shown no interest in ensuring we have strong neighborhood schools that can provide a quality education to all students in the neighborhood. As a result our schools keep closing. Closing existing schools and opening new ones in partnership with private businesses and non-profit organizations was explicitly stated as a strategy in the Gates grant that was awarded to PPS and the Portland Schools Foundation in 2005/06.

    Develpers and Privatizers Win, Public Schools Lose:
    What’s happening is part of bigger movements to separate public schools from publicly owned land, and also to privatize public schools. You’re right that developers are profiting. This shouldn’t be surprising since developers were intimately involved in writing the PPS Long Range Facilities Plan (which never actually went through a public hearing process) and in creating the Real Estate Trust that controls the closed school properties. And look into the connections between the Real Estate Trust and the Portland Schools Foundation whose director is also a charter school proponent.

    We should not allow the district to neglect our neighborhood public schools so that they can be replaced by charter schools and other public or private schools that aren’t physically connected to our communities.

    For the red zones on the map that means the School Board should:
    – Immediately do something about the transfer system that is bleeding our neighborhood schools dry;
    – Adopt teacher transfer policies and incentives to teach in low income schools to ensure that quality teachers are equtiable distributed across the district;
    – Invest in middle school and high school programs that provide course offerings on par with the wealthier neighborhoods, rather than increasing spaces in those wealthier schools so that our children can tranfer over there;
    – Stop approving new charter schools, alternative schools, and leases to private schools;
    – Start serving the interests of all neighborhood students rather than being influenced by developers, families that want the system to work only for them at the expense of other students, the Portland Schools Foundation, segregationists, the Gates Foundation, and any other self-serving individuals or privatization and corporate interests;
    – Review neighborhood boundaries so that children are assigned to a neighborhood school that is actually located in their neighborhood;
    – Invalidate the Jefferson community advocacy board agreement between Vicki Phillips and charter school operator/PSF board member Tony Hopson, a very bad precedent that we should all be very concerned about even if you don’t care about Jefferson or Jefferson families.

    And We:
    Shouldn’t hold our breath.

  29. Comment from Zarwen:

    Just to clarify: I am more interested in the physical locations of these charter schools than in the budget per student. I would like to see how many are located in “red” vs. “green.”

    For what it’s worth, a former charter school principal told me that PPS allocates $ to charter schools at the rate of 80% of what they allocate per student at a neighborhood school. The charter is expected to fundraise or do without the other 20%.

  30. Comment from Himself:

    According to the Open Books Project, PPS spends $9442 per student, 72.1% on teaching and student resources, 14.6% on buses, buildings and food, 6.6% on principals, 5.3% on business services and technology and 1.4% on central administration.

    So 80% would cover teachers, student resources and principal. Not sure what charters do about paying rent. Oh, yeah, they don’t have to have all their teachers certified, and there’s no collective bargaining, so they just take it out of the teachers’ wages.

    As for charter school locations, they’re pretty evenly distributed (three in red, four in green). Here you go:

    Portland Village, 7654 N. Delaware Avenue (Red)

    Opal, 4015 SW Canyon Road (Green)

    Trillium, 5420 N Interstate Ave. (Red)

    Emerson, 105 NW Park (Green)

    Self Enhancement Inc., 3920 N Kerby (Red)

    Portland Arthur Academy, 7507 SE Yamhill St. (Green)

    Leadership and Entrepreneurship Public Charter High School, 2044 E. Burnside (Green)

  31. Comment from Zarwen:

    Thanks, Hockeygod. I checked your link because I noticed that at least two soon-to-open charters are missing from your list. Mysteriously, they are missing from the PPS website as well! They are the Southwest Charter School, which is scouting a location near the shuttered Smith School (red); and something called Ivy (mentioned above by “Jeff”) that will locate in North or NE, possibly also in the red zone. “Jeff” also mentioned a proposal for a charter in St. Johns, which would be another one in the red zone if it comes to pass. I think it is also worth noting that the Portland Arthur Academy is on the edge of the red zone too. Interestingly, the same building used to house the Garden Laboratory Charter, which folded in 2005. Why? “Lack of enrollment.” Translation: because they were unsuccessful at getting nearby families to leave their neighborhood schools!

  32. Comment from Neisha:

    Here’s some info re: the Ivy School. It’s actually the Montessori of Alameda which is currently on NE 42nd near Killingsworth:


    Somewhere in the narrative re: the school/director, it talks about plans to open the Ivy School in 2008.

  33. Comment from Hope:

    If there are 7 PPS charter schools and 3 of them are located in the Jefferson cluster I wouldn’t call that “evenly distributed.”

  34. Comment from Himself:

    Point taken, Hope.

    I guess my angle is still about public investment in neighborhoods. As much as I oppose charter schools as a violation of the basic tenets of public education, I appreciate the public money staying in the neighborhood.

    Then again, as I said before, students transfered to charter schools are as good as lost to a genuine, traditional public school system.

    I don’t know what’s worse: families taking their public investment to neighborhood schools in wealthier neighborhoods, thereby enhancing real estate values there and decreasing them at home; or families pulling out of their neighborhood school in favor of a privately-run charter, but keeping the public investment in the neighborhood where folks live.

    Either way, it’s fatal for neighborhood schools in the red zone. It’s like freakin’ Sophie’s Choice over here.

  35. Comment from George Plizinotski:

    Who looses…not the bitchers and whiners, not the parents that hope all schools can be equal like in a socialistic way, not the communistic pro this and pro that bastards, but our kids. I can tell you this, if you are not supplementing your childs education with a dose of real home education, then quit whining. It really is your own fault. Dont place blame on someone else…find the void and fill it. If you are not strong in an area your child needs assistance, learn it yourself, you ARE an adult and teach it…simple eh? As for lack of enrollment in some schools, I wont call this a ratial issue, but if I knew my child was in a school that scored poorly, partly because of teachers, lack of student moral, and pricipal interaction then private or other education would be in store. Oh but the state is cutting our schools and they have to downsize..and now my child has to go to another schools 10 miles away and it is so inconvienent…
    whah whah whah…If the school districts in your area need more enrollment you should have known 5 years ago and practiced to have triplets with your partner so enrollment was up……urhhhg…..thats all

  36. Comment from Steve:

    George doesn’t understand participatory democracy. He evidently doesn’t think we should question how the government spends our tax money, or work to change it.

    Funny for somebody who rails against “socialistic way[s]” and “communistic pro this and pro that bastards”. You’d think somebody like that would want to watch very carefully how the government spends his money.

    He also doesn’t understand my comment policy, especially re. being civil, and is one more dumb-ass comment away from being banned.

    Oh, and by the way, “loose” means “not tight”; “lose” means “to come to be without”. Just sayin’.

  37. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Ah, he’s just scrapping. Who spells the word racial “ratial”? Who leaves out the apostrophe in “won’t”? He’s just wanting someone to play with him.

  38. Comment from marcia:

    concerning charters….the st. john’s sentinel had an article about the new charter to be located there….and the article mentioned that teachers don’t have to belong to a union..(sounded like they thought it was a good thing)…but failed to mention that half the teachers don’t even have to be certified. If anyone would like to write an informative letter to the editor explaining the reality of charters, that would be nice…since I am a little pressed for time this week ….I have been trying to get to it…but feel free to take on the task if you so desire..thanks

  39. Comment from Zarwen:

    Here is a link to the article Marcia mentioned:


  40. Comment from Zarwen:

    I wonder why Matt Shelby didn’t mention that two other new charters are already slated to open in 2008? And there is nothing on the PPS website about any of these?

    The district did not approve the Southwest Charter, but the state did. And I am not completely sure, but I believe the District gave approval to the Ivy Charter last spring. If this “New Harvest” charter gets approval as well, that will be THREE new charters opening in the same school year, two of them in North Portland.

    To be fair, it must be mentioned that the Southwest Charter is a direct result of a neighborhood school closure. I can’t, and I don’t see how anyone could, find fault with folks that are trying to get their neighborhood school back any way they can.

    But, should this come to pass, it will make a total of 5 charter schools in North Portland, in the wake of how many neighborhood school closures? Four? (One of which now has a long-term lease to a parochial school!) At the very least, it gives the lie to the assertion that schools are closing due to declining enrollment!

    How do school board members sleep at night? Sorry, I just don’t get it.

  41. Comment from Zarwen:

    CORRECTION: Approval of the Ivy Charter School is pending. They are on the same timeline as New Harvest. My apologies.

  42. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Dang, fast and furious around here, eh? Marcia, I just saw your comment — “I got a call yesterday from someone (?) on my answering machine inviting me to a meeting regarding the new St. Johns charter school…” How did they get your number, do you know? Did they leave a name?

    Someone asked me a couple months ago if I’d heard about the “great” charter school they were trying to get up and running in St. Johns, and would I sign a petition? They were having trouble finding enough support and I seemed like just the kind of person who would like the school. (“White and spending money at a bookstore” is the demographic they’re looking for, I guess.)

    I was all, hello, I’m Wacky Mommy. Yes, by all means, let’s talk schools. We have James John, Astor, Chief Joe, Portsmouth, Rosa Parks, Peninsula, George, Sitton and Roosevelt — what are you doing for them? And Applegate, Kenton, John Ball, Clarendon, Meek and Whitaker have already shut down… I don’t want to lose any more, do you?

    Her head kinda imploded after that.

  43. Comment from marcia:

    Good for you Wacky Mommy! I did not get a name on who was doing the calling…and I also wondered how they got my name.

  44. Comment from Zarwen:

    If you go to the New Harvest website, they list the following as “business sponsors”: St Johns Booksellers, Proper Eats Cafe, Anna Banannas Coffee.

    These look like small, neighborhood businesses, not big corporations. Anybody have a line on why their owners are interested in sponsoring a charter school instead of their neighborhood schools?

  45. Comment from Zarwen:

    Since no one else has come out and said it yet, I will: this whole charter thing reeks of union-busting. Marcia alluded to it earlier when discussing the article in the Sentinel. The numbers point to it as well: close 4 regular schools, open 5 charters, have union-free schools and save $ because half the charter teachers don’t have to be certified and will work for peanuts. Do it in North Portland, assuming that poor people won’t do much to protest. The parents who are helping organize these charters probably don’t even realize that they’re party to it. Kind of puzzling, when you consider that the organizers of New Harvest are former PPS teachers, and that St. Johns has a long, proud working class history.

  46. Comment from Wacky Mommy:

    Zarwen, it’s absolutely union-busting, I completely agree. It bums me out because (as anyone who reads my writing and my husband’s knows) we’re pro-union, pro-education, pro-teachers. And no, my kids’ school isn’t perfect, but they love it there, and they are getting a good education. I like knowing that their teachers are making a living wage.

    “Charter schools vs. neighborhood schools” is pitting parents against each other, too, because we all want what’s best for our kids, and this is one more way that it seems like we’re saying to each other, “You’re a bad parent.”

    That’s not what I’m saying, I’d like to make that clear. I don’t look at this as bad/good. I just want parents to be informed, to realize what charters steal from the kids, neighborhoods and teachers, and not fall into the mindset of, “Look, we don’t need unions — we’re doing this ourselves! We’re building this school from the ground up and you’re an idiot if you don’t join in!”

    It’s all extremely personal, it’s gotten volatile as hell, and no, charters are not something Steve and I are choosing for our family. But that doesn’t make us uncaring parents, or lousy ones.

  47. Comment from Zarwen:

    I think Steve got it right when he said that this should be a discussion of PPS policy that needs to happen at the District level. I am a former teacher, so naturally I am pro-union and want every teacher to make a living wage. While I do see a place for charters in the overall scheme of things, I am concerned about their effect on remuneration for teachers–everywhere, not just in PPS. And I am concerned that the recent “mushrooming” of charters could backfire in the long run.

    Based on current info, it is possible that PPS could open THREE new charters next fall, after having just opened a new one this year and one last year. Is this good long-range planning?????? And if charters are such a good thing, why are so many of them in N. PDX? Why is there only one each in the Wilson (although another is set to open there next year), Lincoln, Cleveland and Marshall Clusters, and none in Franklin, Grant or Madison (although the one in Cleveland was in Madison until this year)? The whole thing cannot pass the smell test, hence the conclusion that it’s union-busting, starting with a very deliberate and physical wedge in N. PDX.

    You’re right, Wacky Mommy, it’s not about parent vs. parent. It’s about thorough scrutiny of what the School Board is up to and the legacy VP has left behind. And the unhappy conclusion that they think we’re too stupid to figure it out.

  48. Comment from marcia:

    From the very scary CER, here is a quote from one of their newest articles. It is an organized, union busting, public school destroying movement, and we should be fighting back.

    “According to data gathered by the Center for Education Reform (CER), more families are making choices about what school to attend. Over one and a quarter million students will be enrolled in charter schools as of September 2007 — and that number is expected to increase when final numbers are reported later in the fall.

    Today, many charter schools must create waiting lists for families seeking to take advantage of this innovative and successful educational opportunity, says CER President Jeanne Allen.

    “There are almost 50% more families on waiting lists, which tells us that families are actively seeking to exercise their right of school choice.”

    While the numbers are encouraging, conventional public education still affords too few families the opportunity to choose the best place for their own needs. That lack of choice typically costs taxpayers more.

    “We find that the average expenditure per pupil in conventional public schools has been $9,969 while charter schools will average $7,155,” Allen continued. “And despite these inequities charter schools often feature performance pay for teachers and longer instruction time.”

    Besides charter schools, the number of children attending private schools using publicly-authorized choice programs also continues to increase. In Ohio this year nearly double the number of students will take advantage of voucher programs available to pupils in the worst performing school districts.

    In addition, major public school districts are increasing options offered to students. The city of Los Angeles announced this summer that it will grow its public school choice program and New York City now offers expanded choice programs as well.

    “We are pleased with these improvements, but it points to the need to afford every family access to quality education opportunities,” Allen concluded.”

  49. Comment from Heather:

    As a founder of New Harvest I have to let you know that we are very pro-union. I am the daughter of two teamsters and activists. So why assume so much?

    Our school is also about equity, as our current system is not equitable in many people’s minds (I am in the middle of it right now- I know.)

    There are plenty of teachers out there to make awesome local schools everywhere- there’s no lack. There are great principals and parents in St Johns. So what’s the problem with student performance?

    Let’s get at the deeper questions and concerns- who are the kids in North Portland, how are they doing academicaly, physically, socially and emotionally, and what can we do to care for them? All I hear is- class conflict, class conflict. Politics, Politics, Politics. What about real people, in real places, caring about their real kids and the kids of others?

    Many poorer schools in Portland get more public money than richer ones (although the Lincoln community fundraising pays for 3-5 teachers more per year from private funds, hmmm…)

    If we can, New Harvest will hire mostly certified teachers at a starting PPS salary rate. I started out ten years ago as a beginning (certified) teacher at $27,000 with a school for dyslexic students and was THRILLED to have a job and insurance! Not to mention- helping people came first (we did great work for those kids on top of that)! That’s what it’s all about.

    Let teachers decide what they will work for. I know several CERTIFIED teachers who have left public school to work for charter, private, overseas schools or quite teaching altogether. They’ve experienced it and it didn’t work for them. Let’s ask- Why do they take pay cuts? Are they searching for more intimacy, better relationships, smaller classrooms?

    What makes some schools succeed and others not? It’s really hard to say, I think.

    New Harvest has plenty of parents who are rooting for this school -and, yes- small businesses, and those who believe in local control and local food and small, healthy learning environments which large, old buildings do not provide with their air, light and food pollution.
    (Clarendon as with some other schools are also shut down for environmental hazard reasons and old age.)

    New Harvest also has the University of Portland Nursing School behind it, teachers from PSU and Lewis & Clark Education departments, and a variety of health clinics who are committed to what we’re committed to, and we have poor people and middle class people, too.

    Not everything is about politics. Sometimes it’s about people. And, sometimes equity doesn’t look like what you thought it was. Let me guess- It was entirely Nader’s fault for the 2000 election, too?

    Shall we blame poor to middle class parents from a bunch of backgrounds for voting with their feet for what they perceive is the better option? Can we bring some of them back? Poor people homeschool, too. They keep their kids out of the “system” for such a variety of reasons- for issues of race and culture, religion, distaste for the schools.

    P.S. We did parent surveys this year. 43% of parents surveyed, who were interested in our school, already homeschool or send one child to a private school. Would we rather re-invest in our local public schools (which a charter is) or have those parents keep their kids out? When Trillium started enrolling, many parents were homeschoolers and they entered PPS for the first time.

    I have met several parents who have moved in and out of St Johns in only a few years often due to the schools (or their perception of the schools). Many want to move by Astor Elementary and away from other local schools in North Portland. Why?

    P.S. New Orleans charter schools have been a distaster not because they suck but because the federal government didn’t pull through on its committments (among other things). Why compare apples with oranges? Portland charters outperform other local schools…And they are so far from a right-wing, privatization agenda. Go visit.

    The charter idea grew out of a concept created by a liberal, ex-teacher union president in the late 70’s/80’s and got ripped off by others with seperate agendas.

    New Harvest would love to learn how to work with the teachers union. But why would a small school feel the need to be union if it has 7 staff, it fosters strong relationships, and is based on a democratic model? Union dues are very pricy which is ok when you really need a bargaining unit while working with the mammoth, Portland Public.

    If you have suggestions please email: newharvestcommunity@yahoo.com. I have no time to blog normally- I am busy working with kids.

  50. Comment from marcia:

    And what about PERS? I have to ask….are you retired and receiving your PERS? What about your teachers? Will you offer retirement and health benefits which equal PPS?

  51. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Heather, you make some interesting comments. The public school system is pretty messed up, but what most of the people on this website are fighting for is an equal chance for kids from poorer neighborhoods. That is the overriding principle in the comments on class warfare etc.

    Don’t get mixed up thinking charter schools are a replacement for public schools. I, personally, don’t have a problem with charter schools. But how many kids in your school will have moms in jail and dads on drugs and are incredibly disruptive? Will you give them the help they need to succeed or will you send them packing. No problem really since you won’t have any kids like this. But I had plenty of them in my public school classes.

    Now I am not trying to guilt you or in any way demean what you do — but there is a difference. A significent one.

    Now, let’s talk about unions a little. (with a little disclaimer, I have fought the OEA, as a member, for years, and believe a lot of their policies are self-serving and just plain wrong) Suppose you, as the administrator, are unreasonable or downright mean to an employee whose opinions rub you the wrong way. Are you going to guarantee total freedom of speech within your school community? Are you supplying top of the line health insurance? Do you have a terrific retirement program? Do you have a duty free lunch and specified hours and have a system to reward overtime? Do you have pregnancy leave, personal leave, reasonable work hours? Will you pay for the lawyer to defend an employee who YOU accuse of doing something improper? Do you have someone on your payroll who is totally independent and will take the employee’s side in a grievance? Are you providing these benefits for your employees? If so, I applaud you. But if you are not and rationalize that a dedicated teacher shouldn’t be interested in these things then you need to read a little history.

    Now, all said, keep up the good work and I wish you incredible success in your new school and hope every child gets a marvelous education — just don’t get confused in thinking that public school teachers don’t labor every day to help children get a decent education. Most of them do. It is getting harder every day by the way.

  52. Comment from marcia:

    Also, I was thinking…Astor has one advantage over some North Portland schools, and that is a great mixture of kids from different socio-economic backgrounds. It is close to U of P and has kids from families there, plus other families who have moved in and gentrified the area…but we are also a Title 1 school, with 50% free or reduced lunch…I think that this blend of kids helps make Astor successful…But if people abandon their neighborhood schools for magnets or charters, you lose this blend…which is what happens at many North Portland schools.

  53. Comment from AmyS:

    I am a North Portland parent, the daughter of a retired Teamster (Local 206, thank you), the wife of a union member and have been a union member myself in all my jobs until the current one — where I will advocate for a union if I ever feel we need one. I will not cross a picket line nor patronize a business that union-busts. I also believe that that are good non-union shops that treat employees well and have a loyal and happy work-force (New Seasons Market comes to mind) and I am happy to support them with my business.

    I also support my neighborhood school by participating in the yearly grounds clean-up and fund-raisers, have previously (before having young children) been a reading volunteer and spent an AmeriCorps year working full-time in a neighborhood school. I won’t send my child across town to a “better” school because I believe in neighborhoods — the same reason I shop in locally-owned shops and buy locally produced goods.

    Does it now surprise you that currently, I am actively working to help get New Harvest a charter? I do not not believe that it will threaten unions in any way. I believe it will be a positive force in our neighborhood. And I hope that the innovative teaching methods that this and other public charters schools are proving effective will be allowed to filter into the neighborhood schools. I fervently hope that one day all PPS schools are allowed to follow the community-based teaching models that public charters like Trillium and New Harvest use but believe this will never happen if these small schools are not allowed to prove that they work regardless of the socio-economic class of the students and the demographics of the neighborhood. My husband and I are willing to send our kids to a new, unproven school where much will be demanded of us as school-community members so that we can point to its success when PPS is finally willing to make some substantive changes.

  54. Comment from Steve:

    Heather and Amy, thanks for posting. This comment thread is getting long, and isn’t directly related to the original post, so I’ve responded in a new post. We can keep this discussion going there.