Lainie Block Wilker has a guest Oregonian column “PPS should find better policies before seeking bond” with which I mostly agree. She writes (here):
Portland Public Schools appears poised to put another bond on the November ballot. But PPS still has not figured out how many schools it can afford to operate with full educational programs.
Right now, thousands of high school students are warehoused in cafeteria "study halls" for up to three hours, unable to get full class schedules. Many students come to high school out of K-8 schools that lack science labs, technology, advanced algebra and geometry or world languages. PPS should defer a bond and focus on bureaucratic streamlining combined with smart consolidations, so that buildings support a plan for quality education…..
First, Wilker is right to ask for operational and programmatic changes before we approve a facilities bond measure. I have my well-worn placards “Do Not Fund a Outdated, Inadequate, and Inefficient School System,” and “Change It First” from my opposition to the last bond measure (here). Wilker is making the same general argument.
Second, I’ve repeatedly argued that PPS is planning for one too many high schools (here). Wilker, with a different perspective and argument, agrees:
PPS should close Jefferson. Demographics do not support two high schools in North Portland. Roosevelt has 683 students and is projected to cap at 963; Jefferson is projected to cap at 600. Seventy-nine percent of Jefferson-area students transferred out to other high schools and have been better served at Grant and Benson. Only 32 lottery applicants sought Jefferson, compared with 400 applicants to Benson. Middle College can be offered citywide without a costly separate campus.
Wilker makes several other proposals (fix the K-8 inequities, strengthen Benson and its vocational-technical programs, and cut the bureaucracy further) that I find tantalizing and could support. She does not, as I do, call for a paid high school study abroad program, nor more Mandarin and Japanese immersion programs, nor many more online high school classes. She may not be sold on the idea that a globalized economy and the rise of China require strengthened and different foreign language programs, nor on the potential of online learning to expand opportunities and reduce costs.
But we may both be campaigning against a PPS bond measure in November. Now is the time for Portland Public Schools to make significant changes.