Company guy

Talk about playing both sides for the middle.

The newest member of the Portland Public Schools Board of Education is already demonstrating keen political instincts. Even as he speaks of representing minority communities, he’s falling in line with the group think of the board.

“I’m not going to go there and just be an opposition candidate,” says Martín González in a Portland Tribune story by Christian Gaston.

“I think people are looking for magical solutions and I like Kool-Aid, but I don’t think that’s how it works.”

I think González, who has not responded to PPS Equity e-mail challenging him to take bold positions on critical issues, may be talking about us.

Personally, I can’t stand Kool-Aid. And I don’t think having comprehensive secondary schools in our least wealthy neighborhoods and a neighborhood-based enrollment policy is asking for magic. I think it would be equitable, balanced, sustainable public education and investment policy.

If González thinks that’s asking for magic, I think he’s being incredibly cynical.

He falls right in line with the company dogma about transfer and enrollment policy.

González said that the district’s transfer policy isn’t responsible for segregating students: Instead, parents and students are separating themselves.

“The reality is, I think, our society is still segregated,” González said.

Yes, society is segregated, and yes, people do self-segregate. I’ve written about that quite a bit, in fact.

But this doesn’t excuse the district’s policy that encourages more of it. The fact remains that our schools have become dramatically more segregated, both in terms of ethnicity and economics, than the neighborhoods they serve.

This policy González is defending, coupled with the school funding formula, divests over $40 million a year from our least wealthy, least white neighborhoods.

I can understand the perspective of wanting to keep options for poor and minority students, who are disproportionately assigned to schools that the district has not just neglected, but has actively gutted and broken into small schools with dramatically reduced opportunity.

This is why I’ve proposed a transfer policy — predicated on first providing comprehensive secondary schools in every cluster — that allows students to transfer freely, so long as their transfer doesn’t aggravate socio-economic segregation (much like the Black United Front’s 1980 desegregation plan, but keyed on economics instead of race).

This policy would allow disadvantaged students to choose from virtually any school, but keep most students in their neighborhood schools. It would balance our public investment in proportion to where students live, bring equity of opportunity to all students, and it would tend to desegregate schools in all neighborhoods. And best of all, it would cost taxpayers less than the current model with all its built-in inequities.

This isn’t magic, Mr. González, this is sound public policy. If we could do it in 1980, we can do it in 2008.

Platitudes about bringing a new voice to the table and tracking individual student achievement don’t mean much when the policies of Portland Public Schools continue to drain enrollment and public investment from our poorest neighborhoods and deprive the students there of basic opportunity available to students living in the wealthier, whiter parts of Portland.

It’s looking like the school board and their patrons got exactly what they were looking for. A minority male, which changes the balance of the board from 85% female and 71% white to 71% female and 57% white, making the board look more like the 55% white school district they lead.

But best of all, the powers-that-be manage to keep their own white asses covered with a seemingly representative board defending policies which disproportionately hurt poor and minority neighborhoods and students to the benefit of wealthier, whiter ones.

You’ve got to hand it to them; they know exactly what they’re doing. And it sounds an awful lot like class war to me.

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

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