It’s all about choice

1:29 pm

The problem with our education system is not that parents do not have a choice. The problem is that inequities continue to exist. —Patsy Mink

In the movie Sophie’s Choice, a mother was forced to make a literal life choice between her two children — a soul-destroying decision impossible to reconcile or live with — and one no parent should ever have to make.

How do we choose one child’s future over another, if given the choice? Yet, that is precisely the result of Portland Public Schools’ policies: consciously determining that some children will be provided opportunities for an educated, productive future – and that some children will not.

Affected parents cried out that the district’s policies have inequitably diminished their children’s future, and they chose to do nothing.

Affected students cried out that the district’s policies have inequitably diminished their future, and still they chose to do nothing.

A community member documented that the district’s policies have resulted in resources being inequitably shifted from our poorest children, and still they chose to do nothing.

City and county auditors documented that the district’s policies have resulted in educational inequities for our poorest children, and still they chose to do nothing.

Their own analyses documented that their policies have resulted in educational inequities for our poorest children, and they have still chosen to do nothing.

The district’s rationale? Changing these policies would result in removing “choice”. However, it is disingenuous, hypocritical and indefensible to justify policies under the guise of “choice” when these policies simultaneously remove “choice” from our most vulnerable students.

Our city’s educational system is shamefully unacceptable. Portland Public Schools has a choice, and that is to choose all of our city’s children — by utilizing the concepts of equal access and equitable educational opportunities to drive every policy decision.

Whatever they grow up to be, they are still our children, and the one most important of all the things we can give to them is unconditional love. Not a love that depends on anything at all except that they are our children. —Rosaleen Dickson

We can no longer tolerate the inequity that benefits one child’s future at the expense of another. We have no choice.

It’s possible to light another man’s candle without damaging your own. —Danish Proverb

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Nancy Smith has taught public school grades 5-12 for 32 years. She is a life-long resident of North Portland and a graduate of Roosevelt High School. She is mother to three Jefferson High School graduates — with her youngest currently attending Woodlawn Elementary School.

filed under: Equity, School Board, Transfer Policy

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6 Responses

  1. Comment from Terry:

    Brilliant! And even poetic.

    I hope you’ve decided to make yourself available to serve the district as a school board member. We need people like you to correct the “shamefully unacceptable” condition of education in our once proud public school district.

  2. Comment from Steve Buel:

    Thank you Nancy! We are likely the only school district in the metropolitan area, including Vancouver, that has such a bankrupt system. And it wasn’t always this way in PPS. It started with Bierworth and the advent of The Portland Schools Foundation. I talked to an old area director yesterday who documented the changes — he was actually told to give the upper middle class school in his area more perks than the lower economic school. It is just not a figment of our imagination.

  3. Comment from Nicole:

    Thank you Nancy!

  4. Comment from howard:

    Inequity in PPS is really about PPS offering choice to middle and upper class parents to keep their kids’ fannies in the seats so as to maximize revenue. And it started in the 1960s when Jefferson was THE school in PPS.

    Additional special interests have arisen in PPS since the 1960s and today PPS is a dysfunctional stew pot of clashing agendas, crisis negotiations and lawsuits.

    Where there is no honest reflection and trust there can be no peace.

  5. Comment from Zarwen:

    Steve B. is right. Hard to believe that only 15 years ago, the course offerings from school to school actually varied little. And yet, returning to that state is apparently “Mission: Impossible” for this School Board. How did something so simple get so complicated in such a short time?

  6. Comment from Liz:

    I’m a north portland resident. I attended Skyline-holbrook and Lincoln. I have always believed in neighborhood schools. I wanted my daughter to go to her neighborhood school, Roosevelt. Add in the promises that Roosevelt is on the rise. First let me get this out of the way there are some amazing hard working teachers there, Thank you. But there is alot of bad ones there. Is this a place for burned out teachers to come to so that they wont have to work? My daughters first love is math. Well thats gone. After our numerous attempts to get get some results she stopped going to class altogeather. No one noticed for three days. No one in the office had time for her. Her spanish class, she did all the extra credit she could get her hands on,attended every day and really worked at it. She barely passed and a student who never came to class got a better grade. I’m talking about an A/b student. The classes are mostly badly managed. My daughter is a very good athlete, shes had private and club coaching and experience. She no longer plays basketball, because of all the fighting and lack of respect for being on a team. And her volleyball coach is an outright abusive, intimidating and a passive aggressive bully. I scheduled a meeting with the campus principal so she could hear from my daughter about her experience. She offered up a transfer! Maybe we should take her up on that offer. Heres the tragedy, if its not working for my kid, its probably not working for any of the kids at Roosevelt. I don’t want to jump ship. But please don’t believe all the articles that tell you Roosevelt is doing great, in lots of respects its not. Its no wonder people move out of the area. When we attend volleyball tournaments elsewhere people express their sorrow that our children attend PPS. Unless you play boys basketball.