July 12, 2008
Portland Public Schools’ student transfer system transfers public investment out of our neediest neighborhoods and hands it to the wealthiest.
The poor are the biggest public school philanthropists in Portland, to the tune of 40 some million dollars a year.
The solution: rebalance enrollment. The Jefferson cluster alone had a net loss of 1,949 students to out-transfers last school year. At a conservative estimate of $5,800 per student, that’s over $11 million of public investment drained from the Jefferson cluster alone.
That’s a lot of money, but more importantly, it robs the cluster of the economies of scale that allow other clusters to offer more curriculum at lower cost.
The other clusters with significant net losses to out-transfers are Marshall (1,441), Roosevelt (1,296) and Madison (1,067).
If we put these students in schools in their neighborhoods, we would not only be able to return comprehensive education afforded by economies of scale, we would also relieve significant overcrowding at schools like Grant, Cleveland and Lincoln.
This solution has been staring district leaders in the face for a long, long time, but they refuse to even speak of it. Why? As far as I can tell, the reasons are two-fold:
- fear of losing enrollment (they hear from their affluent white friends that they would send their children to private school if this happened) and
- fear that balancing enrollment and opportunity would mean equalizing downward in white middle class neighborhoods.
In other words, despite the demonstrable harm they are doing to at least half the students of Portland, the perceived risk to their constituency outweighs the clear benefit to the greater common good.
Make no mistake, this is class war, and the only Robin Hoods are the reverse type.
Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.