Category: Budget

FREE Public Education… But Please Donate at Roosevelt

POWER Academy at Roosevelt had $24,962 in Title I funds remaining at the end of the 2008/09 school year.  So imagine my surprise when reviewing their 2009/10 Course Guide and I read:

Under Oregon law, students cannot be required to pay a fee for classes that are part of the regular school program. However, in some instances, you may be asked to make a contribution for certain classes where additional learning materials enable the school to expand and enrich those classes. Certain science lab expenses and art class supplies are examples of classes where your contribution can make a difference in the quality of the class. You are not required to pay the requested contribution in order to enroll in the class. POWER Academy is only able to offer these enhanced learning opportunities for students because of your support and contributions. We appreciate your commitment to our instructional program and

Roosevelt is 81% free and reduced lunch but Lincoln is only 10% free/reduced.  Why does Roosevelt ask for donations but Lincoln does not?  Why doesn’t Roosevelt use their Title I money to fund the programs?

SourcedFrom Sourced from: Cheating in Class. Used by permission.

Carrie Adams blogs at Cheating in Class.

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Did PPS Waste $4,964,861 on an Ineffective Math and Science Program?

The Portland Public School board is scheduled to vote March 8th on a program that would allow military recruitment, under the guise of science education, of PPS kids in grades K-5.  The program (STARBASE) has been in Portland schools since 1993.  PPS receives just over $300,000 per year for providing access to the kids.

STARBASE and the district’s claim that there’s a need for this particular program or that it’s an effective way to teach science is weak at best.

In 2001, PPS was awarded a $4,964,861 five year National Science Foundation (NSF) grant  with these goals:

  1. to enable all of the district’s diverse student enrollment to meet rigorous K-12 standards in science and mathematics and prepare for postsecondary education and future careers;
  2. to increase the district’s capacity to develop, support, and sustain teacher and principal leadership;
  3. to engage families and the community in supporting improved student performance in science and mathematics and improved access to high quality, inquiry-based educational opportunities; and
  4. to establish ongoing collaborative partnerships with higher education, business/industry, policy makers, and other key stakeholders in support for exemplary, research-based teaching and learning in science, mathematics, and technology within the context of a large and diverse urban district.

In a 2004 PPS grant report, PPS makes the following claims about the NSF program:

  • In science, NSF schools made a gain of 6% in 5th grade, 6% gain in 8th, and 9% gain in 10th grade, compared to district growth of 4%, 4%, and 9%.
  • Minority students improved in science in the NSF schools faster than whites.  The percentage of 5th grade African American students who met standards increased from 36% from 47%, compared to whites that increased from 79% to 81%.
  • Hispanic students have traditionally not performed well in math and science.  This year, many of them improved particularly in science.  In NSF schools, the number of Hispanic students who met standards increased from 37% in 5th grade to 46%, from 25% to 34% in 8th, and from 20% to 27% in 10th.

Inverness Research Associates conducted annual evaluations of the NSF grant.  The October 2006 final report states:

In our view, the Portland USP can readily claim success with developing greater teacher leadership capacity for math and science education improvement in their district. Their theory of action – of how to achieve increased capacity – was sound. First they focused on creating change “from the bottom up,” instead of from the top down. The USP also sought to make lasting changes to teachers’ beliefs, recognizing that ultimately the individual is the unit of change. Changes that reside within the individual teacher, that is – their ways of thinking and teaching and learning vis-à-vis math and science education – are, therefore, lasting legacies.  Schools come and go, and staffs and principals and reform foci also shift frequently in large urban districts. Given that reality, seeking to create changes from the bottom up, and individual-to-individual, are strategies that promise a greater likelihood of sustainability. Also when robust vision, commitment and skills reside locally at the school level, the work of improvement in math and science is more likely to continue in spite of district change. Finally it is important to point out that teacher leadership capacity does not disappear. It is a renewable resource, a districtwide (though often invisible) asset that can be harnessed and directed for worthy purposes.  The development of indigenous teacher leadership is, therefore a wise, ecological model for improvement.

Inverness Research Associates’ final report indicates that the program was a big success.  The conclusion is too lengthy for a blog but these are the highlights.

Given the relatively small scale of the USP investment, roughly $20 per student per year, it has reaped enormous benefits, leaving behind a host of tangible and intangible assets in the district.  To name the most significant of these assets are: a well-honed, highly respected and very experienced leadership team for math and science; a district-wide group of teachers and teacher leaders committed to math and science improvement; a cadre of classroom teachers with vastly improved skills and knowledge in math and science teaching, as well as skills and knowledge about how to work together to provide and continuously improve high quality programs for students; systems and structures organized to deliver and maintain curricular materials; a strategically designed, well-crafted professional development program; a clearly articulated and commonly held vision for high quality math and science education which lends coherence to efforts for improvement at multiple levels of the system; and finally, the accumulated good will and success of the USP effort which enables people to continue to work hard and with optimism toward their shared goals even in difficult circumstances.

So given PPS own data and reports and an evaluation conducted by an outside organization, the NSF program was effectively closing the achievement gap in math and science and PPS could have easily sustained the effort for $20 per year per student.

Why is PPS now offering up the very same groups of kids supported by the NSF grant to the military for a mere $300,000 in a weak, non-sustainable so-called science program?  Have they dismantled the infrastructure that was so effective for poor and minority children?

It just makes my point in the previous post that PPS is unwilling to close the gap.  The bottom line is that PPS poor kids are the district’s contribution to the war efforts.

SourcedFrom Sourced from: Cheating in Class. Used by permission.

Carrie Adams blogs at Cheating in Class.

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Executive team takes a beach retreat

Portland Public Schools’ 13-member executive team, headed by superintendent Carole Smith, left today for a two-night retreat at the beach, according to an anonymous tip to PPS Equity.

District spokesman Matt Shelby confirmed that the superintendent’s team will be in Rockaway tonight and tomorrow night. Some will stay at the private home of a team member; others will stay at a rental house.

Shelby wrote in e-mail to PPS Equity that the rental and food are being paid for “by a fund in the [superintendent's] office — established by private donations — designated for organizational development and staff recognition. The only taxpayer money spent on this comes in the form of staff paid time.”

It was not clear exactly what they would be working on. “It’s my impression that it’s some goal setting and defining this year’s budget building process,” wrote Shelby.

The executive team consists of Superintendent Smith; chief of staff Zeke Smith; general counsel Jollee Patterson; chief academic officer Xavier Botana; deputy superintendents Greg Baker, Mark Davalos, Toni Hunter and Charles Hopson; director of community involvement and public affairs Robb Cowie; director of finance Mike Gunter; director of human resources Hank Harris; director of operations C.J. Sylvester; and director of system planning and performance Sara Allan.

Shelby said he requested more information and promised more details later; I’ll post them when I get them.

Friday update: Matt Shelby confirms that this is indeed the house the district is renting. Based on published rates, PPS is spending $850 for the rental, plus a $250 cleaning fee, for a total of $1,100 for lodging. They are also spending an undisclosed amount on food.

Shelby says this will be charged to an account with a balance of $8,000 from a private donation (an inquiry about the source is still pending). “The account has also been used to purchase cards, flowers, etc… during Teacher Appreciation Week and Classified Appreciation Week,” writes Shelby.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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Why you should vote Yes on 66 and 67

In Multnomah County:

  • the vast majority of taxpayers (96.7 percent) would see a reduction (12.6 percent) or no change in their income tax under these measures. The wealthiest 3.3 percent would see a slight increase in marginal rates.
  • there are 91,000 students in public schools.
  • there are 83,592 people on the Oregon Health Plan.
  • there are 6,380 seniors and people with disabilities in long-term care.

Tens of thousands of local students, seniors and the disabled face devastating cuts to critical services.

Thousands of teaching and educational support professionals face lay offs and furloughs. These jobs, which support the greater local economy through spending power, can be preserved with a yes vote.

“Job killing taxes” is an oxymoron. These modest tax increases, which will only affect the wealthy and corporations, will preserve jobs and vital community services.

Please join me in voting “Yes” for both Oregon measures 66 and 67.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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PGE, Nike fund anti-tax campaign

Nigel Jaquiss reports in today’s Willamette Week that Nike, PGE and other large Oregon corporations are funneling money to oppose two tax measures on the ballot in January through the Portland Business Alliance and Associated Oregon Industries.

PPS School board director Pam Knowles recently resigned as Chief Operating Officer of Portland Business alliance after five years there.

Nike branding opportunitySchool board co-chair Trudy Sargent sporting the Nike swoosh (photo courtesy Kenneth Libby)

Nike is a long-time corporate partner with PPS, as evidenced by ubiquitous Nike “swooshes” on school district property. Earlier this week, school board members sported Marysville shirts at their meeting to show solidarity with the recently displaced school community. Prominent on the shirts was a Nike logo.

If Nike were serious about supporting schools, they would take a stand for re-balancing corporate and individual taxes in Oregon, skewed against individuals and in favor of corporations for at least 20 years.

But paying taxes doesn’t provide branding opportunities.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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In the news: district finds money, drops furlough demand

Willamette Week is reporting that Portland Public Schools has found enough money to drop demands for a five-day teacher furlough in the contract currently being negotiated.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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In the news: PPS sells “surplus” copy paper, toilet paper

Beth Slovic report in today’s Willamette Week that Portland Public Schools last week sold “surplus” copy paper and toilet paper, among other items, for less than market value. Portland teachers spend an average of $600 a year out of their own pockets for classroom supplies, according to their union. They are currently fighting for a contract that doesn’t roll back their pay to pre-2007 levels, even as they deal with an increased workload.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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Just drops in the bucket

Amidst unstable funding for education and a lingering recession, Portland Public School teachers like me are stuck in the middle of contentious contract negotiations, one year overdue. Much information that is available to the public is filtered through Portland administrators, namely Carole Smith, who seems very much out of touch with the day-to-day workings of most teachers.

As news stories broke about $500,000 spent on Blackberries for “higher ups”, and $80,000 spent on hotel meetings for the same, one starts to wonder how much more is being spent on “non-classroom” items. One such story saw Matt Shelby, district spokesperson, say something to the effect that these items were very minor compared to the overall budget. And this got me wondering, “If these items were just “drops in the bucket” so to speak, how many drops in the bucket do there need to be, before the bucket gets filled, and people get mad?”

Drops in the bucket. There are 80+ schools in the Portland district. If each of these schools received $1,000, then that $80,000 spent on hotels takes on greater significance. I have had to scrounge for materials each and every year I have taught. $1,000 to buy the novel sets I desperately need to teach 7th grade. Wow, what a luxury. How many drops is that $80,000 now?

Not to mention $500,000. As I think about the computer lab our school was promised, but then denied, because we didn’t have the room, I wonder. Would half a million buy a lab? Or how about an addition to our cramped, “only suitable for elementary students but made to serve middle school students as well” library? A place to house our nurse and counselor and special ed. teachers, who currently have to share small quarters? This would not go far to fix all of our K-8s that are sorely lacking in facilities and resources. But, what if even one school got the treatment it deserved? How many drops in the bucket is that worth?

As we see the district move forward with its grand high school redesign, one cannot help but wonder what happened to the K-8 redesign. Did we miss it? And can we really trust a district that feels as if several hundred thousand dollars are just drops in the bucket?

Sheila Wilcox is a PPS parent and K8 teacher.

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In the news: Other line items PPS could cut

In today’s Willamette Week, Beth Slovic details the “Gravy Trainers,” “Sweet Talkers,” “Real Estate Moguls” and others who seem to be escaping the budget knife, even as the district pushes a budget that would force furlough days on represented employees (without first consulting their unions). Rumor has it that 40 educational aid positions have been cut district-wide.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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In the news: funding rally, Trib seeks input on principals

Portland Tribune reporter Jennifer Anderson has put out a call for input on PPS principals.

Also from the Trib, a distributed school funding rally is planned for tomorrow.

Steve Rawley published PPS Equity from 2008 to 2010, when he moved his family out of the district.

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