PPS to Charter Schools Applicants: No, No, No, No.

by Steve, December 11th, 2007

It is refreshing to be on the same side of an issue with the entire school board. The Portland Public Schools board of education unanimously voted down all four charter applications in the current cycle last night (with Sonja Henning absent).

Following a rhetorical lead by David Wynde, who enumerated the myriad choices already available in the district and explicitly rejected an absolute free market approach, several board members made sweeping statements in opposition to increasing the competition for our neighborhood schools. One might get the sense (if one were an optimist) that the pendulum has reached its maximum free-market position and could conceivably begin to swing back.

In the interest of equity, let’s hope so.

At several points during the discussion of the four proposals, board members expressed concern about the schools being able to provide “comprehensive” education to their students. I hope the irony isn’t lost on the board members that this is a concern for the students of Jefferson boy’s academy, not to mention all the other “small schools” that were carved out of the formerly comprehensive Jefferson, Roosevelt, Madison and Marshall.

Also on the agenda was the facilities plan, and some prep work for floating a capital bond.

Here’s a preview of my position on any new construction bond: I will not support any PPS bond unless and until the board articulates a goal of a comprehensive high school in every neighborhood. I will actively campaign against a bond that sets in stone the narrowly-focused academies at schools in our working class neighborhoods.

I seriously hate to sound like a libertarian, but until this board and administration demonstrate a commitment to equitably distributing what they’ve already got, I will fight against any further revenue.

15 Responses to “PPS to Charter Schools Applicants: No, No, No, No.”

  1. Comment from Gary:

    Why is there a belief that the free market will not work with education, when it works with all other arears of life, when allowed to work? To remove government from any interference in the market is always a disaster (I offer you Medicare and Medicade). The most effective solution is not charter schools, although they are a good start, but vouchers. Allow the public schools to compete with each other and private schools for students. Since moving to Oregon six years ago, I am unimpressed with the caliber of education, by observing students, in this backward liberal state. Throw out the unions and begin to teach our students correctly.

  2. Comment from Tasha:

    I am sad that Mr. Gary believes competition belongs in education. If he honestly believes that free market has worked in other areas of life, perhaps he would be good enough to educate himself of the exploitation of third world resources by first world free-market countries. Educators are not stock brokers; they should not be competing, they should be cooperating in the effort to create a more humane society. I say good for PPS.

  3. Comment from Larry:

    Vouchers are the best, most freedom oriented solution. But the people against vouchers are a religious group who feel very threatened by any competition to the union dominated monopoly structure in place today.

    Vouchers are very threatening. What if people took their vouchers and their kids and left for a better school? What would we do with the loser schools and their teachers/principals/staff? Allowing people to vote with their feet would showcase which schools are performing and which schools are not performing, and some schools (teachers, principals, staff) would get their feelings hurt.

    Better to leave the status quo alone. Better to keep the poor performing schools just the way they are. After all, teachers are human too. They deserve to keep getting their paychecks, regardless of if the kids get the proper schooling or not.

    Besides, it is not the teachers fault. Schools are under funded; we need more money for facilities, text books, more pay and more teachers. Vouchers will take away money from where it is needed most… the poor performing schools. Or so the argument goes.

  4. Comment from RLW:

    Public education is all about free market. If it weren’t for our public education system in this country, only the more affluent would have a chance at the American dream.
    Private education has its place. I have been a board member for a private school for many years. It is interesting that Gary & Larry (and his other brother Larry) espouse “free market” but then want school vouchers. Yes, vouchers will dilute public funding of education. Simple mathematics. There are around 45,000 private school students in Oregon who get no state funding. To cover those students, the public funding would have to increase at least 10% (i.e. more taxes) or the exisitn funding would be diluted. Simple mathematics.

    The free market means you are free to pay your money and send your children to private schools.


  5. Comment from Zarwen:


    I am completely with you on saying NO to more revenue without meaningful reforms (or jettisons) of failing programs. But in any case, I am expecting PPS to lie about all of that. It would be completely consistent.

    Would you publish the names of the charters that got denied? I am assuming that Ivy and New Harvest were two of them; what were the other two?

  6. Comment from Rubycakes:


    I hate to quote Nancy Reagan but don’t “throw the baby out with the dishes”. You are confusing the issue of facilities with the way the work goes on within those facilities. Hopefully you know how bad the facilities are in PPS. Wilson HS is the newest HS in PPS and it just celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.

    You can tilt against the windmill of smaller academies all you want (I tend to agree with you) but aren’t you cutting off your nose to spite your face here a little bit?

  7. Comment from Steve:

    The top-secret (only it got leaked) plan for Jefferson was to build a brand-new facility in sections designed for the separate academies. That is, they would architecturally set the “small schools” philosophy in stone. I will fight any such initiative. I will also fight expanding or rebuilding Lincoln while the schools in our working class neighborhoods sit half (or more) empty.

    Yes, our facilities are a disgrace. But I can’t support building in our wealthy neighborhoods to accommodate in-transfers from neglected working-class neighborhoods, and I can’t support committing us to academies at the schools that have lost enrollment due to out-transfers.

    Like I said, I need to see a commitment to equitable polices before I’ll support a capital bond. To me, that means a comprehensive high school in every neighborhood. And to get that, we have to look at the transfer policy.

    PPS, are you ready for this fight? Because some of the biggest supporters of public education in Portland aren’t with you this time, without some serious changes to policy direction.

  8. Comment from Rene:

    Good work Steve, to both you and Nancy.

    I am pleased the board is addressing the frank inequality created by these schools. The vast difference in demographics in the charters they already approved for our area is too dramatic to be ignored. Until these proposed charters plan ways to serve ALL the students in the area, including the poor, carless, ESL and special needs, they should not be funded with our taxes.

    About Lincoln: I got a laugh reading the Oregonian and a columnist’s lamentation we need a new building for Lincoln because (gasp) the lockers are too small. Horrors! Have they even visited Jefferson? The once gorgeous auditorium is molding and trashed, the paint is peeling, the place is a mess. It is remarkable how our city pretends this inequality doesn’t exist.

  9. Comment from Steve:

    A friendly reminder to commenters to please read the Comment Policy before posting, specifically the part that says “Don’t hijack topics.”

    The topic of this post is the school board’s Monday vote to deny four applications for new charter schools. I welcome discussion of that.

    If you want to discuss school vouchers, the virtues of free market absolutism, or how the evil teacher’s unions have ruined public education, I invite you to get your own blog. They’re free at WordPress.com.

  10. Comment from Zarwen:

    Well then, in the interest of staying on topic, can anyone answer my earlier question: what are the names of the charters that got denied? I am assuming that Ivy and New Harvest were two of them; what were the other two?

    And another question occurs: what is the likelihood that any of these rejected charters will appeal to the state, as Southwest Charter successfully did last year?

    BTW, Rubycakes, I don’t know what Nancy Reagan said, but the original expression was “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

  11. Comment from Steve:

    Sorry, Zarwen, I got distracted by the libertarian fringe for a moment.

    The denied charters were Ivy, New Harvest, Portland Web and Early College Academy, and Pioneer Technology.

  12. Comment from Rubycakes:


    Not to be rude but DUH, it’s a JOKE. That’s what she said, “throw the baby out with the dishes”. When we all know that’s not how the expression goes. It’s a Bushism from an earlier time.

    (I guess if you have to explain the joke it’s really not that funny.)

  13. Comment from Lisa Richardson:

    Hi Everybody,

    I too, am pleased about the way the vote turned out on Monday. Being raised in the US, I was socialized to think choice is a good thing. I still think it is. I want choices, and think we function better when given choices.

    But as Steve said, giving “choices” while sacrificing a child’s right to a public, quality education is never going to be okay.

    I hope you’re right, Steve, maybe things are changing when it comes to choice. Let’s try not to get our hopes up.


  14. Comment from howard:

    “The topic of this post is the school board’s Monday vote to deny four applications for new charter schools. I welcome discussion of that.”

    “Sorry, Zarwen, I got distracted by the libertarian fringe for a moment.”

    With all due respect Steve, your post contained references to “free markets”, “comprehensive education” and “small schools” in addition to “charter schools”. And several of your non-libertarian commentators also strayed from your “single topic” requirement quoted above.

    I’m all for bloggers who can adhere to a single topic in their posts and require commentators to stay on topic. Unfortunately, the vast majority of bloggers are seldome able to meet the challenge and the lack of continuity in their commentators comments usually results in repetition, bias and dysfunction rather than anything approaching consensus.

    Offered in the spirit of constructive audit, Howard

  15. Comment from Steve:

    The comments I deleted (and a couple I left) were so far on the fringe of things (vouchers and “throwing out the unions”) that they are a distraction to the discussion at hand. We’re not talking about those things, even if I did bring up David Wynde’s comments about free market absolutism. The debate is well to the left of that, both here and on the school board. If you want to discuss from the right-libertarian fringe, there are plenty of places to do so.