Let’s forget about the Portland Public Schools’ radical transfer policy for a moment. I know I’m sick of talking about it, and we know the school board has delegated their policy-making responsibility to their brand-new superintendent to ponder for a few months. (In other words, nothing’s happening on that any time soon.)
Let’s forget about race, too, since prominent members of Portland’s black community don’t have a problem with a certain level of racial isolation in our schools. It’s never been about race for me anyway (but race is an indicator of economics, the real issue).
I’m also really bored with the charter schools debate. This is about policy, not personal choices.
So let’s talk about equity. If certain elements of Portland insist on a little piece of privilege at the expense of not only the working poor, but also an increasing segment of the middle class, let’s just take that economic issue head-on.
Portland Public Schools are grossly inequitable.
At the macro level, we have nine neighborhood high schools, spaced relatively evenly across the district. Of these, five are traditional, comprehensive high schools. The other four are split into small academies with extremely limited educational opportunities.
All of the comprehensive high schools are located in the wealthiest parts of Portland. All of the limited high schools are located in the poorest parts of Portland.
At the micro level, neighborhood elementary schools have dramatic differences in program offerings, sometimes within the same ZIP code. One school may have all the “extras” — PE, music, counseling, library, technology specialists — while the next school over has none of these, and more kids in the kindergarten room, too.
Of course school choice is supposed to address this problem, giving parents the “right” to attend a school across town if their neighborhood school doesn’t have the programs every child needs. We know that choice has instead exacerbated the problem, but I promised I wasn’t going to talk about that.
Any policy maker without a tin ear to equity would insist on a policy that seeks to reduce inequity in Portland Public Schools. If we are going to keep a radical transfer policy that causes inequity, we are going to have to invest in remediation in the form of much higher spending per student in the clusters with high out-transfers.
We’ve got to insist on an equitable school in every neighborhood. That means all nine clusters have a traditional, comprehensive high school, and equivalent enrichment programs at all neighborhood elementary schools. If anybody thinks they can do this without seriously reforming the transfer policy, I would give them my full support in trying.
Ultimately, we have to acknowledge that neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers need to be seriously curtailed, if not banned entirely, to sustain equitable schools in every neighborhood. But evidently that’s too farsighted for some to grasp.
So I’m up for putting some pressure on Carole Smith to propose a plan to remedy the gross inequities the transfer policy causes as a part of her report to the board in January. (I will be writing a letter to Smith soon, and posting it here.)
Thelonious Monk “Rythm-a-ning”, 1961
I’m working on a post about school equity, and a map of closed public schools, charter schools and private schools in north and northeast Portland. While you’re waiting for that, listen to this.
I’ve been selling More Hockey Less War t-shirts for over a year now, and I know they’ve been worn in rinks all around the globe. But I had my first sighting at the Memorial Coliseum (other than my own) last night at the Winter Hawks’ Teddy Bear Toss. Here’s a shout out to the nice woman in section 13 wearing her black t-shirt with the classic stenciled logo. I was wearing my 148th Overseas Battalion sweatshirt, and she noticed and gave me a nice wave.
Seeing a random stranger wearing a t-shirt I designed gave me an unexpected thrill. I’m glad the irony (and the pure, unadulterated truth embodied in what at first appears to be a contradiction) is appreciated by others enough that they’d spend upwards of $30 to order one of my shirts.
Since the price of these things is so high, and the pittance I make off them isn’t good for much (except buying shirts for me and my crew), I decided to drop the prices as far as I can on the classic design More Hockey Less War T-shirt. (Cafe Press sets relatively high base prices — $18.99-$19.99 for basic dark t-shirts — and shop keepers make money by adding markup to that price.)
From now until I can be bothered to change it back (could be weeks, months or years) I’m selling these for $20.99. That’s a dollar or two above cost, depending on whether it’s men’s or women’s, enough to (hopefully) cover the cost of the Cafe Press shop. They’re still not cheap, but they’re probably as cheap as you’ll get a dark t-shirt at any Cafe Press shop.
PPS Custodians Rally Against 30% Pay Cut!
Tonight, Monday November 19th 6:00 PM
BESC Building 501 N. Dixon (Just North of the Rose Garden/Memorial Coliseum)
Come Join Us In Supporting Portland Public Schools Custodians and Nutrition Services Workers in Their Struggle to Win A Fair Contract!!!
Come Let The PPS Board Members Know That People Care About Clean , Safe , Well Maintained and Operational Schools… and that PPS Workers Deserve Decent Wages, Benefits and Working Conditions!!!
(From comments on this blog)
My latest post on Metroblogging Portland is all about hockey in Portland, focusing on the Jaguars, Winter Hawks, and the history of the game in the Rose City. (Did you know the first US team to play for the Stanley Cup was the Portland Rosebuds, in 1916?)
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To the Members of the Portland Public Schools Board of Education:
I am writing to you in lieu of public testimony at the hearings today on the applications for the Ivy Charter School and New Harvest Charter School. I strongly urge you to reject both applications.
This recommendation is both general and specific.
At the higher level, we must look at the proposed siting of these schools in North and Northeast Portland, and place it in the context of what has happened to the neighborhood schools in these areas. These are the areas suffering the greatest declines in enrollment due to out-transfers, and that have subsequently suffered school closings and cuts in program offerings.
As neighborhood schools in these areas have been gutted or shut down, private and charter schools have sprung up like weeds to replace them, glimmering illusions of hope for beleaguered families wanting smaller classes and basic educational enrichment.
Our first priority as a district needs to be the restoration of equity in the neighborhood schools across Portland, a move that would reduce the demand for charter schools and neighborhood-to-neighborhood transfers. If we instead ignore the equity issue and approve more charters, we perpetuate a cycle that is deadly to our goal of strong neighborhood schools.
More specifically, you should oppose Ivy Charter School on the basis of its overlapping board with an existing private school. Though supporters may assure you they have no plans to convert the private school, it seems they are using a loophole to establish a new school that will eventually absorb the private school. This may be allowed under the letter of the law, but it is certainly against the spirit of the law. This alone should be enough for you to reject the application. If you need more reason to be concerned, Ivy would be located two blocks from the closed Meek school, and half a mile from Rigler Elementary (61% capture rate) and a mile and a half from Scott Elementary (59% capture rate). This application is an affront to anybody concerned with strong neighborhood schools.
Please reject the Ivy application on these grounds. Let them appeal to the state if they want; at least it won’t be on your conscience.
The New Harvest application was a mess, as you know, and there should be no reason to approve this school. Their lack of budget expertise, their shambles of a curriculum proposal and failure to articulate plans to achieve their lofty goals show a general lack of skills and knowledge necessary to run a school.
I know all of you can appreciate the external pressure schools like this can place on enrollment at neighborhood schools. At the last board meeting, you discussed ways to reduce this kind of pressure. I hope you see this as an opportunity to do so. A “no” vote on these charters is a “yes” vote for strong neighborhood schools.
The front page of the metro section of the Oregonian today features a large, full-color photo of Bud Clark reenacting his famous “flash”, this time with the help of Mayor Tom Potter and former-Mayor Vera Katz. I’ve put this into context on metblogs today.
(And yes, I still intend to blog here; I’m just getting my feet wet over there.)
Somebody foolishly decided it would be a good idea to give me another platform (besides this, my own sometimes-creaky printing press) to spout my insane communist rhetoric. I just wrote a post about the proposed Homer Williams/Mark Edling land grab involving Lincoln High School over at Metroblogging Portland.
I encourage you all to pop over there and join the conversation.