97217: The Neighborhood That Gives… and Gives… and Gives…

by Steve, August 26th, 2007

Note: this entry is part of a series on school funding inequity in Portland. Here I do further analysis on the data I originally reported in PPS Divestment by Neighborhood, Illustrated.

Anybody who pays attention to Portland Public Schools and doesn’t live in the “green zone” knows intuitively that PPS is a two-tiered, segregated system. But it is shocking and shameful to dig into the numbers and realize the full extent to which district policy robs literally tens of millions of dollars annually from our poorest neighborhoods and lavishes it on the richest, whitest parts of town.

The poor and working class neighborhoods of Portland showed some serious largess last school year, sending $32 million to the finest neighborhoods in town. The biggest single chunk of that came from 97217.

In 2006-07, Portland Public Schools open transfer policy encouraged a net 1,069 students to take $8.2 million out of that neighborhood. It would look far worse, if not for the fact that Beach’s Spanish immersion program put that school in the green column by $1.2 million. Also, the numbers for Ockley Green are a little fishy, showing over $800,000 in the green and a suspiciously low looking attendance area population of 327. (I’m not sure how PPS is figuring that number, since the K-5 attendance area overlaps with Chief Joseph. Perhaps that 327 is just grades 6-8.)

But the anomalies of Beach and Ockley Green can’t stanch the rivers of cash flowing out of Chief Joseph ($770,000), Penninsula ($191,000), or the biggest single contributor to our wealthier neighborhood schools, Jefferson High.

Yes, that’s right folks, the only majority-black high school in Oregon, serving the poorest neighborhoods of Portland, is giving $9 million annually to our whiter, richer neighborhood high schools across town.

How can we live with this? I’ve heard the argument that open transfers were needed to save the district. Maybe they did, but the district that survived is horribly disfigured, and the demographic trends have radically changed in recent years any way. More and more middle class families are moving into the red zone. It’s disgraceful what they will find when their children reach school age.

We need to scrap the open transfer policy now, before our schools are disfigured beyond recognition. We have the infrastructure and demographics in place for a first class, equitable, integrated school system in Portland. The fact that we have a two-tiered, segregated system is a result of policy. That policy must change.

School budget per student enrollment neighborhood PPS population +/-
Beach 5449 475 246 1247821
Chief Joseph 5278 359 505 -770588
Humboldt 6518 240 286 -299828
Jefferson 7614 566 1751 -9022590
Ockley Green 6973 442 327 801895
Peninsula 5320 299 335 -191520
97217 total: -8234810

Source: Portland Public Schools.

Corrected Map and Some More Analysis

by Steve, August 26th, 2007

Thanks to those who pointed out typos in the graphic I posted the other day documenting Portland Public Schools’ diversion of state revenue from poor neighborhoods to rich ones. I have corrected it for proper labeling of 97219 and 97266. I appreciate any other corrections people notice. (I’m a one man, in-my-spare-time operation, working without the benefit of fact checkers and info-graphic artists, so I hope you’ll excuse the sloppiness.)

A reader e-mailed me to ask about 97219, one of the only West-side areas in the red. I’ll admit this surprised me. Here’s the break-down by school:

School budget per student enrollment neighborhood PPS population +/-
Capitol Hill 4217 341 356 -63255
Jackson 4342 688 652 156312
Maplewood 4164 307 342 -145740
Markham 4750 359 496 -650750
Rieke 4537 280 328 -217776
Stephenson 5166 310 265 232470
Wilson 4554 1556 1642 -391644

The entire ZIP is down just $1 million (compare to 97217, down $8.2 million), but still, I didn’t expect to see Wilson high in the red at all, even if t is only by less than half a million.

I’ll highlight other ZIP codes as I have time. In the meanwhile, I encourage you to download and study the spread sheet if you can’t wait.