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Comments on: PPS Divestment by Cluster

Peace, Justice and Hockey

Last Build Date: Sun, 19 Feb 2017 19:57:42 +0000


By: Steve

Sun, 16 Sep 2007 22:19:56 +0000

Heather and Amy, thanks for posting. This comment thread is getting long, and isn't directly related to the original post, so I've responded in a new post. We can keep this discussion going there.

By: AmyS

Sun, 16 Sep 2007 22:05:04 +0000

I am a North Portland parent, the daughter of a retired Teamster (Local 206, thank you), the wife of a union member and have been a union member myself in all my jobs until the current one -- where I will advocate for a union if I ever feel we need one. I will not cross a picket line nor patronize a business that union-busts. I also believe that that are good non-union shops that treat employees well and have a loyal and happy work-force (New Seasons Market comes to mind) and I am happy to support them with my business. I also support my neighborhood school by participating in the yearly grounds clean-up and fund-raisers, have previously (before having young children) been a reading volunteer and spent an AmeriCorps year working full-time in a neighborhood school. I won't send my child across town to a "better" school because I believe in neighborhoods -- the same reason I shop in locally-owned shops and buy locally produced goods. Does it now surprise you that currently, I am actively working to help get New Harvest a charter? I do not not believe that it will threaten unions in any way. I believe it will be a positive force in our neighborhood. And I hope that the innovative teaching methods that this and other public charters schools are proving effective will be allowed to filter into the neighborhood schools. I fervently hope that one day all PPS schools are allowed to follow the community-based teaching models that public charters like Trillium and New Harvest use but believe this will never happen if these small schools are not allowed to prove that they work regardless of the socio-economic class of the students and the demographics of the neighborhood. My husband and I are willing to send our kids to a new, unproven school where much will be demanded of us as school-community members so that we can point to its success when PPS is finally willing to make some substantive changes.

By: marcia

Sun, 16 Sep 2007 21:40:08 +0000

Also, I was thinking...Astor has one advantage over some North Portland schools, and that is a great mixture of kids from different socio-economic backgrounds. It is close to U of P and has kids from families there, plus other families who have moved in and gentrified the area...but we are also a Title 1 school, with 50% free or reduced lunch...I think that this blend of kids helps make Astor successful...But if people abandon their neighborhood schools for magnets or charters, you lose this blend...which is what happens at many North Portland schools.

By: Steve Buel

Sun, 16 Sep 2007 21:24:34 +0000

Heather, you make some interesting comments. The public school system is pretty messed up, but what most of the people on this website are fighting for is an equal chance for kids from poorer neighborhoods. That is the overriding principle in the comments on class warfare etc. Don't get mixed up thinking charter schools are a replacement for public schools. I, personally, don't have a problem with charter schools. But how many kids in your school will have moms in jail and dads on drugs and are incredibly disruptive? Will you give them the help they need to succeed or will you send them packing. No problem really since you won't have any kids like this. But I had plenty of them in my public school classes. Now I am not trying to guilt you or in any way demean what you do -- but there is a difference. A significent one. Now, let's talk about unions a little. (with a little disclaimer, I have fought the OEA, as a member, for years, and believe a lot of their policies are self-serving and just plain wrong) Suppose you, as the administrator, are unreasonable or downright mean to an employee whose opinions rub you the wrong way. Are you going to guarantee total freedom of speech within your school community? Are you supplying top of the line health insurance? Do you have a terrific retirement program? Do you have a duty free lunch and specified hours and have a system to reward overtime? Do you have pregnancy leave, personal leave, reasonable work hours? Will you pay for the lawyer to defend an employee who YOU accuse of doing something improper? Do you have someone on your payroll who is totally independent and will take the employee's side in a grievance? Are you providing these benefits for your employees? If so, I applaud you. But if you are not and rationalize that a dedicated teacher shouldn't be interested in these things then you need to read a little history. Now, all said, keep up the good work and I wish you incredible success in your new school and hope every child gets a marvelous education -- just don't get confused in thinking that public school teachers don't labor every day to help children get a decent education. Most of them do. It is getting harder every day by the way.

By: marcia

Sun, 16 Sep 2007 21:16:58 +0000

And what about PERS? I have to ask....are you retired and receiving your PERS? What about your teachers? Will you offer retirement and health benefits which equal PPS?

By: Heather

Sun, 16 Sep 2007 20:13:26 +0000

As a founder of New Harvest I have to let you know that we are very pro-union. I am the daughter of two teamsters and activists. So why assume so much? Our school is also about equity, as our current system is not equitable in many people's minds (I am in the middle of it right now- I know.) There are plenty of teachers out there to make awesome local schools everywhere- there's no lack. There are great principals and parents in St Johns. So what's the problem with student performance? Let's get at the deeper questions and concerns- who are the kids in North Portland, how are they doing academicaly, physically, socially and emotionally, and what can we do to care for them? All I hear is- class conflict, class conflict. Politics, Politics, Politics. What about real people, in real places, caring about their real kids and the kids of others? Many poorer schools in Portland get more public money than richer ones (although the Lincoln community fundraising pays for 3-5 teachers more per year from private funds, hmmm...) If we can, New Harvest will hire mostly certified teachers at a starting PPS salary rate. I started out ten years ago as a beginning (certified) teacher at $27,000 with a school for dyslexic students and was THRILLED to have a job and insurance! Not to mention- helping people came first (we did great work for those kids on top of that)! That's what it's all about. Let teachers decide what they will work for. I know several CERTIFIED teachers who have left public school to work for charter, private, overseas schools or quite teaching altogether. They've experienced it and it didn't work for them. Let's ask- Why do they take pay cuts? Are they searching for more intimacy, better relationships, smaller classrooms? What makes some schools succeed and others not? It's really hard to say, I think. New Harvest has plenty of parents who are rooting for this school -and, yes- small businesses, and those who believe in local control and local food and small, healthy learning environments which large, old buildings do not provide with their air, light and food pollution. (Clarendon as with some other schools are also shut down for environmental hazard reasons and old age.) New Harvest also has the University of Portland Nursing School behind it, teachers from PSU and Lewis & Clark Education departments, and a variety of health clinics who are committed to what we're committed to, and we have poor people and middle class people, too. Not everything is about politics. Sometimes it's about people. And, sometimes equity doesn't look like what you thought it was. Let me guess- It was entirely Nader's fault for the 2000 election, too? Shall we blame poor to middle class parents from a bunch of backgrounds for voting with their feet for what they perceive is the better option? Can we bring some of them back? Poor people homeschool, too. They keep their kids out of the "system" for such a variety of reasons- for issues of race and culture, religion, distaste for the schools. P.S. We did parent surveys this year. 43% of parents surveyed, who were interested in our school, already homeschool or send one child to a private school. Would we rather re-invest in our local public schools (which a charter is) or have those parents keep their kids out? When Trillium started enrolling, many parents were homeschoolers and they entered PPS for the first time. I have met several parents who have moved in and out of St Johns in only a few years often due to the schools (or their perception of the schools). Many want to move by Astor Elementary and away from other local schools in North Portland. Why? P.S. New Orleans charter schools have been a distaster not because they suck but because the federal government didn't pull through on its committments (among other thin[...]

By: marcia

Sat, 15 Sep 2007 17:05:12 +0000

From the very scary CER, here is a quote from one of their newest articles. It is an organized, union busting, public school destroying movement, and we should be fighting back. "According to data gathered by the Center for Education Reform (CER), more families are making choices about what school to attend. Over one and a quarter million students will be enrolled in charter schools as of September 2007 -- and that number is expected to increase when final numbers are reported later in the fall. Today, many charter schools must create waiting lists for families seeking to take advantage of this innovative and successful educational opportunity, says CER President Jeanne Allen. "There are almost 50% more families on waiting lists, which tells us that families are actively seeking to exercise their right of school choice." While the numbers are encouraging, conventional public education still affords too few families the opportunity to choose the best place for their own needs. That lack of choice typically costs taxpayers more. "We find that the average expenditure per pupil in conventional public schools has been $9,969 while charter schools will average $7,155," Allen continued. "And despite these inequities charter schools often feature performance pay for teachers and longer instruction time." Besides charter schools, the number of children attending private schools using publicly-authorized choice programs also continues to increase. In Ohio this year nearly double the number of students will take advantage of voucher programs available to pupils in the worst performing school districts. In addition, major public school districts are increasing options offered to students. The city of Los Angeles announced this summer that it will grow its public school choice program and New York City now offers expanded choice programs as well. "We are pleased with these improvements, but it points to the need to afford every family access to quality education opportunities," Allen concluded."

By: Zarwen

Sat, 15 Sep 2007 04:39:33 +0000

I think Steve got it right when he said that this should be a discussion of PPS policy that needs to happen at the District level. I am a former teacher, so naturally I am pro-union and want every teacher to make a living wage. While I do see a place for charters in the overall scheme of things, I am concerned about their effect on remuneration for teachers--everywhere, not just in PPS. And I am concerned that the recent "mushrooming" of charters could backfire in the long run. Based on current info, it is possible that PPS could open THREE new charters next fall, after having just opened a new one this year and one last year. Is this good long-range planning?????? And if charters are such a good thing, why are so many of them in N. PDX? Why is there only one each in the Wilson (although another is set to open there next year), Lincoln, Cleveland and Marshall Clusters, and none in Franklin, Grant or Madison (although the one in Cleveland was in Madison until this year)? The whole thing cannot pass the smell test, hence the conclusion that it's union-busting, starting with a very deliberate and physical wedge in N. PDX. You're right, Wacky Mommy, it's not about parent vs. parent. It's about thorough scrutiny of what the School Board is up to and the legacy VP has left behind. And the unhappy conclusion that they think we're too stupid to figure it out.

By: Wacky Mommy

Sat, 15 Sep 2007 03:28:14 +0000

Zarwen, it's absolutely union-busting, I completely agree. It bums me out because (as anyone who reads my writing and my husband's knows) we're pro-union, pro-education, pro-teachers. And no, my kids' school isn't perfect, but they love it there, and they are getting a good education. I like knowing that their teachers are making a living wage. "Charter schools vs. neighborhood schools" is pitting parents against each other, too, because we all want what's best for our kids, and this is one more way that it seems like we're saying to each other, "You're a bad parent." That's not what I'm saying, I'd like to make that clear. I don't look at this as bad/good. I just want parents to be informed, to realize what charters steal from the kids, neighborhoods and teachers, and not fall into the mindset of, "Look, we don't need unions -- we're doing this ourselves! We're building this school from the ground up and you're an idiot if you don't join in!" It's all extremely personal, it's gotten volatile as hell, and no, charters are not something Steve and I are choosing for our family. But that doesn't make us uncaring parents, or lousy ones.

By: Zarwen

Sat, 15 Sep 2007 03:15:42 +0000

Since no one else has come out and said it yet, I will: this whole charter thing reeks of union-busting. Marcia alluded to it earlier when discussing the article in the Sentinel. The numbers point to it as well: close 4 regular schools, open 5 charters, have union-free schools and save $ because half the charter teachers don't have to be certified and will work for peanuts. Do it in North Portland, assuming that poor people won't do much to protest. The parents who are helping organize these charters probably don't even realize that they're party to it. Kind of puzzling, when you consider that the organizers of New Harvest are former PPS teachers, and that St. Johns has a long, proud working class history.