The Last “Celebration”

I attended the last Portland Public Schools “Celebrate!” event yesterday, and handed out leaflets (109KB PDF) drawing attention to the inequities that follow the open transfer policy. Fellow Neighborhood Schools Alliance member Terry Olson braved the absolutely miserable weather with me, and we handed out 500 fliers in the first two hours of the event.

If you think it’s a little odd for a school district to set up a shopping mall for their schools, you’re not alone. Several families I spoke with were virtually speechless. What’s even more appalling, once you scratch the surface, is that this showcase event exposes the startling inequities between our neighborhood schools. I spoke with parent Peter Campbell, who’s been trying to get the district to publish curriculum offerings for all elementary schools, to no avail. Even at an event like this, he discovered that it is virtually impossible to get accurate, consistent data.

This inconsistency is incredibly frustrating, and it is one of the ways PPS is shifting the true cost of its open transfer policy onto families. If the district really wanted to do this right, the real costs would include a standardized format for schools to publish their offerings, and full-time marketing staff at each school, so that administrative staff could focus on running their schools and educating our children. The real cost of doing this would be prohibitive, of course, and nobody wants to spend precious FTE budget on marketing. Yet without it, parents are not able to make informed choices.

Of course, it would be far less expensive — not to mention far more fair — to have a uniform core curriculum, including music, art and P.E., in all our schools.

I’m glad this is the last “Celebration” PPS will spend money on. The Oregonian reports that these events have typically cost $300,000 to put on. That’s easily enough to pay for the three FTE positions I’ve advocated to restore the music department in the Jefferson cluster.

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