April 16, 2008
Terry Olson has a great post on his blog on the environmental impact of school transfers.
Nobody’s done a statistical survey to evaluate the number of vehicle miles traveled daily as families criss-cross the city taking their children out of their neighborhoods for school, but Terry scratches the surface by looking at the numbers of students transferring in and out of a handful of schools.
The cover story of yesterday’s Willamette Week is about seven ways Portland can be more green. Too bad they didn’t read Terry’s post before they went to press.
There is no reason Portland Public Schools can’t provide quality, comprehensive education in every neighborhood. The infrastructure is in place (even if it is in need of upgrades), and it is difficult to argue that families transfer out because the want to drive their kids across town and back every day.
The truth and shame of PPS is that they have allowed enrollment and funding to flood out of our poorest neighborhoods. Instead of attempting to stanch the flow, they have encouraged it by gutting programs (like the Jefferson arts magnet), eliminating comprehensive high schools in favor of experimentation in Gates small schools, closing schools, and eliminating middle school options (the Madison and Jefferson clusters have completely lost middle schools).
As with the greater economy, the free market system is beginning to creak and groan under environmental and human costs that have previously been written off. It simply is not sustainable to continue to defund our poorest neighborhoods to the tune of tens of millions of dollars annually.
As I’ve argued consistently over the past year, it is time for a New Deal for Portland Public Schools. We need to reinvest in our poorest neighborhoods, and remove any legitimate reason to transfer from one neighborhood school to another. (There will always be a place for centrally-located focus option schools, like Benson, da Vinci Arts and MLC, and I’m not arguing for the end of this kind of “choice.”)
It’s the right thing to do for the planet, for our children, and for our neighborhoods. What’s stopping the school board and superintendent from acting, and revamping the transfer policy and the distribution of our educational investment? As far as I can tell, it’s the fear of alienating a small number of upper middle class families.
They actually seem to be holding the planet and the majority of our children hostage in the interest of not upsetting a small minority of their constituents. This continues to bring shame to our great city, and intolerable inequity to our poorest citizens.
Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.