More Hockey, Less School!

by Steve, October 5th, 2007

hockeyThat’s the word from Jeff over at ClearTheCrease.net, a new Portland hockey blog. I told him, yeah, I’m sick of this shit, too. And nothing cleanses the political palette like a good hard skate or a night of hockey.

We’ve got junior action this weekend in Portland, with the Canadian Major Junior Portland Winter Hawks taking on the Everett Silver Tips Saturday night at the Memorial Coliseum, and the USA Hockey Tier III Junior A River City Jaguars hosting Tri-City at Valley Ice Arena in Beaverton. The Jags have a rematch with Tri-City on Sunday.

If you’re looking for some intense entertainment this weekend, you might want to check out some of what the Portland hockey scene has to offer. Jaguars tickets are $7, general admission. Valley Ice Arena is old school, with the hard wooden benches and disgusting restrooms, but it’s a more casual viewing experience. They’ve even got a mascot this year, and my five-year-old had fun at the season opener a couple weeks back.

Winter Hawks tickets start at $10 for the cheap seats, and go up to $21 for the best (kids’ tix are $5-$14, I think). That’s a bargain to see some of the best junior hockey players in the world.

Go Hawks! Go Jags!

A Serious Look at Beaverton

by Steve, October 5th, 2007

schoolsGiven that there seems to be little political will on the Portland Public Schools Board of Education to do anything serious about the stark inequities in funding and program offerings in Portland neighborhood schools, we’re giving serious thought to moving to Beaverton. I started looking at real estate in Beaverton yesterday, and what I saw illustrates the stark differences between how PPS and the Beaverton School District operate.

The first house I looked at is in one of Beaverton’s poorer neighborhoods. The elementary school is Beaver Acres, where 61% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. The students are 51% minority, with no one group in the majority (white student have a plurality). This reflects the neighborhood demographic, since Beaverton does not have open transfer enrollment.

We all know what happens to schools like this in PPS; they are drained of their middle class students, overall enrollment drops dramatically, demographics skew, test scores drop, and they are threatened by PPS with closure and by the federal government with sanctions under No Child Left Behind. Special programs are cut, with site administrators focusing dwindling Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) budgets on literacy and testing.

Not so in Beaverton. Quite to the contrary, Beaver Acres school is getting a 14-classroom addition to accommodate growing enrollment. All special programs remain intact.

Beaver Acres feeds to traditional, comprehensive middle and high schools, just like every elementary school in Beaverton.

Our neighborhood elementary in PPS has a co-located dual-immersion Spanish program. There are numerous problems with this, too many to get into here. Suffice it to say, the administrator is far more engaged with her special focus program than with the neighborhood program. The school is transitioning to K-8, so we are no longer assigned to the special-focus middle school across the street from the 24-hour sex club, which is nice. But our assigned high school is Jefferson, which has suffered more than any school in the district under the open transfer enrollment policy. No other high school has had its programs cut as dramatically, and no school is less racially and economically diverse.

Let me emphasize something here: Not one of our assigned schools, from pre-K through high school, is a stand-alone, traditional neighborhood school.

Sure, we can apply for the lottery to transfer to one of the traditional high schools, all of which are sited in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods. But why should my kids have to commute across town just to get a full range of educational offerings?

Initial murmurs from the school board on the issue indicate that we’re probably not going to see any changes to the transfer policy any time soon, if at all. Hopefully they can start addressing the funding equity issues at least, but there’s only so much they can do given that funding follows students.

Meanwhile, my kids aren’t getting any younger. When we moved to the Jefferson cluster in 2000, our oldest child was five years away from starting school, and we said to ourselves, “A lot can change in five years.” Not much did. Actually, things have gotten worse. Now our oldest is in third grade, six years away from high school. Will things get better by the time she hits high school? If recent history is any indication, things will get worse.

Look out Beaverton, here we come!