Category: Environment

In the news: PPS texts downplay global warming

Local teacher Bill Bigelow notes in the summer edition of Rethinking Schools that recent Portland Public Schools text book adoptions in science — Physical Science: Concepts in Action (Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2006) — and global studies — Modern World History (McDougall Littell, 2007) — are “dismissive of human-caused climate change.”

In his article, “The big one: teaching about climate change,” Bigelow argues that climate change “is the biggest issue facing humanity,” and lays out his strategy for teaching students about global warming, despite the lack of adequate text books from the district.

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

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On the blogs: green and safe schools in Oregon Senate

Dennis Newman reports on his Natural Oregon blog that two bills are working their way through the Oregon Senate that limit the use of toxic pesticides and cleaning products in schools. Links to contact committee members are provided.

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

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On the blogs: EPA to study air quality at Tubman

Dennis Newman reports on his Natural Oregon blog that the US Environmental Protection Agency will be studying air quality at two Oregon schools, including Portland’s Harriet Tubman Young Women’s Academy.

Tubman’s proximity to Interstate 5 and industry puts its air quality in the bottom 9 percent of schools surveyed for a story in USA Today last December.

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

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Student transfers and the environment

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.

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