Category: Elections

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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Who Funded Pam Knowles’ Election?

This article is reprinted with permission. It originally appeared on the author’s blog Global Ideologies in Education –Ed.

Portland Business Alliance COO Pam Knowles recently won a seat on the PPS school board. She ran against Scott Bailey in a high-price race for the zone 5 seat. Knowles spent $34,030 on her campaign and Bailey spent $33,561 to publicize his candidacy. This begs a few questions: does this de facto “pay to play” policy lock out particular communities, viewpoints, or opinions? Who can raise $30,000 for a high-involvement volunteer position while maintaining a job and raising a family? These questions become even more relevant when considering the election process in Portland: anyone can vote in any zone’s election. (See also this open thread for previous discussion of these issues. –Ed.)

The election process has turned into a media campaign complete with campaign managers, corporate donations, media budgets, and the presentation of false statistics (more on this later; let’s just say Knowles either has no idea what she is talking about or is knowingly misleading the public).

knowles-finance
Location of Pam Knowles’ campaign donations larger than $100

The map above shows the sources of 57 donations to Knowles’ campaign. Several of them are in her district, but the vast majority aren’t even on her side of the river. All of this information is available here through OreStar, Oregon’s election reporting website. These 57 donations account for around $15,000 of Knowles’ $34,030 campaign; the other donations were less than $100 apiece and do not require documentation. I have no doubt that Knowles had the support of some people in her district — some of those sub-$100 donations were from voters in her district — but she certainly pulled in her biggest chunks of funding from the West side (and Portland businesses).

What is Knowles saying that makes the business sphere take note? First, Knowles claims we have a 42% dropout rate. She pushes for “stabilizing funding” for the schools without calling for taxes on businesses (she’s also the COO of the Portland Business Alliance; do you think they like the new tax hikes?). She practically screams efficiency and accountability in the voters’ pamphlet — all while suggesting the K-8 model is here to stay because “research” says it’s better. Added insult: part of that “research” is an overt attack on teachers (they’re more “accountable” in the K-8 model). Question for Pam: why do we have the K-8 model only in one part of town while another part of town (the wealthier side) gets a 6th grade academy and then a 7/8 grade school for middle school?

The claim of a 42% dropout rate isn’t unique to Pam; the Mayor has made the same claim as well (although I informed the Mayor’s office of their error and it sounds like Sam understands the issue). I’ll elaborate on the dropout statistic soon — but I can tell you that Knowles is intentionally misleading the public or completely misinterpreted educational studies (or she never bothered to read them).

Kenneth Libby is an independent education researcher and a recent graduate of Lewis and Clark's Graduate School of Education and Counseling. He writes about national education issues, testing and philanthropy on Schools Matter and Global Ideologies in Education.

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High school design press conference

Superintendent Carole Smith will announce her recommendation for the high school system redesign tomorrow, 10:30 am on the steps of Benson High School. Advance reports indicate the chosen design will be most similar to the “strong neighborhood schools” model (which was the strongest of the three proposed models), with school choice limited to district-wide magnet schools, charters, and alternative schools.

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

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Open thread: school board zones, elections, and pay

Should school board members be paid? An unpaid board position is conservatively estimated to be equivalent to a half-time job. Why should service on the board be limited to those who can afford to work a half-time job for free?

Should school board members be elected by the zones they represent, instead of the whole city? Currently, school board members must live in the zones they represent, but all seats are voted on city-wide.

(Tip of the hat to Lakeitha for the open thread idea!)

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

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Election postmortem

Election results are in. With fewer than 15% of registered voters bothering to mail in their ballots, Pam Knowles has coasted to victory in her zone 5 race over Scott Bailey, 61% to 38%. Zone 5 was the “money race;” the two candidates raised a combined $75,000. Bailey, who received 15,479 votes, has so far reported $36,441 spent (of $41,154 raised) on his campaign, or $2.35 per vote received. Knowles reports $29,116 spent (of $34,040 raised), and received 25,055 votes; that’s 86 cents spent per vote.

In the much lower profile zone 4 race, incumbent Martín González walked away with 51% of the vote in a three-way race. Rita Moore and Steve Buel split the difference of the remaining vote. Total campaign spending by the three candidates in zone 4 was around $7,000, or less than 10% of what the two zone 5 candidates spent. Roughly the same number of votes were cast — just over 40,000 — for both positions.

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: new Madison Principal backs out

Jennifer Anderson writes in the Portland Tribune that current Roosevelt High principal Deborah Peterson has decide not to accept her appointment to lead a unified Madison High in light of the significant controversy ignited by her appointement there without community involvement.

“I have rescinded acceptance of the appointment in the hopes that PPS will be able to conduct a process for appointment of the Madison principal,” Peterson wrote in an e-mail.

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: Oregonian endorsements

The Oregonian today echoes yesterday’s Willamette Week endorsements, giving their nod to Pam Knowles and Martín González for next month’s school board contest. Ballots go out tomorrow.

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: WWeek endorsements, NCLB failure

Willamette Week has endorsed Pam Knowles and Martín González for school board. On the national front, the New York Times reports that the achievement gap persists in spite of No Child left behind.

The achievement gap between white and minority students has not narrowed in recent years, despite the focus of the No Child Left Behind law on improving the scores of blacks and Hispanics, according to results of a federal test considered to be the nation’s best measure of long-term trends in math and reading proficiency.

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

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Campaign finance watch: zone 5 race tops $40K

As expected, Pam Knowles has caught up with Scott Bailey in the race for dollars, with both candidates having surpassed the $20,000 mark in fund raising. Bailey leads in spending, with $12,500 spent. Knowles has spent $6,900.

Incumbent Martín González leads off the much saner money race in zone 4, with $2,500 raised. (Neither Rita Moore nor Steve Buel have reported any campaign finance activity to date.)

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

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Knowles on K8s

This is Pam Knowles’ contribution to the K8 conversation that we started with Scott Bailey last month. Thank you Pam for offering your take on the issue.

Thanks for contacting me and providing the opportunity to join the discussion about K-8 and middle schools. I attended the CPPS Conference and workshop on K-8s and listened carefully to the comments and concerns of parents whose children are currently in K-8 schools. We had a great discussion about the hasty transition to K-8s for certain schools in PPS. It would have been helpful to have someone there from the district who was intimately involved in the transition to provide an update on the identification of issues and what solutions are being proposed to solve the problems our new K-8s face.

Your frustration and the frustration of parents about the transition is clear from your questions and the responses on the PPS Equity blog. I want to respond to your questions by covering the benefits of the K-8 model, what happened in Portland Public Schools that is different from other cities that experienced successful transitions and what our next steps need to be to fix these problems.

As to why make the change from middle schools to K-8, I believe the District, in its continuing struggle to narrow the achievement gap, turned to the national research on K-8 as a potential solution. The research shows that in K-8s that have been implemented successfully, academic achievement rises. Why?

  • Kids continue to build on established relationships with teachers and other adults (as with looping which has also been shown to increase achievement).
  • Parents continue to be more involved in the schools because they are already involved and do not have to reestablish themselves (sounds like the same reason we use for kids).
  • Behavior is more positive. Kids do not have to establish a new identity, but rather can take the role of mentor and protector of younger students
  • There is opportunity for enhanced teacher coordination and articulation between and among grades
  • There is more personal accountability for teachers as they are not passing a student along to another school.

As a parent, a business leader and board member I want students to be successful. I want to see a decrease in the achievement gap and an increase in our graduation rates. I want all children to have the opportunity for success. So what happened in Portland? Why haven’t all our children and our schools experienced success under this model?

First and foremost, implementation began without thorough planning and buy-in by all stakeholders. Parents, teachers, students and community members all should have been a larger part of the decision-making process.

The district was dealing with several issues at the same time that impacted the transition, including the need to close schools, transfer issues, changing enrollment patterns and magnet/special option schools. Many parents, teachers and principals were skeptical and this skepticism increased as the implementation was rushed. Without strong, effective leadership and good, committed teachers the transition cannot succeed district-wide.

Where do we go from here? We do need an assessment of our K-8s to determine which ones are working and why, and which ones are failing and why. This needs to be completed immediately. We cannot delay. We also cannot assume that if we went back to the K-5, middle school model that students would be more successful. Clearly, there were significant problems with that model as well. And, as we all know there are many issues that effect student achievement and they are all entwined. Many of these issues have been discussed on the PPS Equity blog, including transfer policies that weaken neighborhood schools, teacher evaluation and support, kindergarten, parent involvement, and poverty.

My initial belief, without the benefit of an assessment, is that K-8s that were developed at small elementary schools are struggling because they cannot offer the variety of programs/electives that larger K-8s can. In effect, they are still elementary schools that have simply stretched to include 6-8. In some cases this was achieved by adding portables to the school, which fails to provide opportunities to mix the older students with younger students. The integration of all grades is key component and rationale behind the K-8 transition. As a result they do not have the experiences that lead to better behaviors and increased achievement.

The middle schools that expanded to include elementary students are having more success, but still have a long way to go. In both cases, leadership through collaboration between the principal, the teachers and parents as a team will help with the transition and is the most important factor in achieving success.

I would be interested in hearing more from your readers on ideas for how we decrease the achievement gap and increase graduation rates. Ideas I have been considering include:

  • Expanding programs that help children start school ready to learn.
  • Partnering with the county and the city to stretch scarce dollars that support families, young children and at-risk youth in after school and summer enrichment programs
  • Expanding partnerships with community organizations that provide mentors and programs to increase performance.
  • Involving the business community to engage youth through job shadows, internships and employment, to expand their vision of the opportunities that come when they stay in school.

I have extensive experience developing solutions to problems through collaboration and implementing those solutions. I think it is time we move beyond discussing problems. It is time to pull all stakeholders together and develop and implement system-wide solutions. I will pull together teachers, parents, the administration, and community members to turn the challenges faced by the district into opportunities to improve and make the real, quality changes our children deserve.

Thanks again for the opportunity to comment. I look forward to a continuing dialogue on these important issues.

Pam Knowles was elected to the Portland Public Schools board of education in 2009.

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