Circling the Drain

by Steve, October 3rd, 2007

schoolsFifteen months after a city and county audit requested a justification for Portland Public Schools’ open transfer policy, a committee of the school board will take its first look tomorrow. The student support and community relations committee, chaired by new school board member and Neighborhood Schools Alliance founding member Ruth Adkins meets tomorrow at four p.m. Dan Ryan and Dilafruz Williams are the other members of this committee.

This has been my main cause on this blog for a few months. I have crunched the district’s enrollment numbers, and shown that the open transfer policy effectively redlines the poorest neighborhoods of Portland, transferring tens of millions of dollars of public investment annually to wealthier neighborhoods.

I have reason to be concerned that the school board will attempt to tweak things around the edge of this policy, and will not consider the simplest, most reasonable response, which would immediately address the issue of neighborhood funding inequity: curtailing neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers.

Here’s an analogy for you. You’ve got a bathtub full of water. Somebody pulls the plug. You get a group of people debating how to keep the water in the tub, and they’re throwing out all kinds of ideas. Perhaps we can convince the water that it’s better to stay in the tub. Maybe we can make it more complicated to leave the tub. But as the water circles the drain, nobody suggests the obvious.

Put the plug back in the drain.

The fundamental problem is the open transfer policy. There is no justification for it. Why keep it?

Here’s another thought. We’re screwing the pooch all across the district, not just in the redlined neighborhoods, where educational opportunities are limited, and schools are left with disproportionate numbers of poor and minority students. Things are bad in the green zone, too, where overcrowding also limits and degrades educational opportunities. Things have gotten so bad, we’re verging on driving out the middle class. Which is ironic, given that open transfers (according to a popular argument) have supposedly kept the middle class in PPS schools. This is one middle class parent giving Beaverton a serious look.

We have a perfectly good example in our western suburb, where there are no special focus or magnet programs in elementary school, and no transfers, either. They have a similar demographic to Portland, but none of the problems of racial isolation or funding inequities.

It’s time to put some pressure on our school board, and particularly the members of the committee taking a first look at this problem. If you care about this, give a call or drop an e-mail to Ruth Adkins, Dan Ryan and Dilafruz Williams.

How Much Is Health Care Worth to Bush?

by Steve, October 3rd, 2007

warAnswer: Not very much.

With a veto of a five-year, $35 billion bipartisan expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), Bush has shown he doesn’t give a rip about the health of our nation’s children.

If you think this veto is really about rejecting expansion of government or Bush being a deficit hawk, compare and contrast his weekly $2 billion spent on his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That’s $520 billion over five years. In other words, our children’s health isn’t even worth 6% of what we’re spending to expand the part of our government that’s blowing shit up in Iraq.