ARDY (Resident Detective): PPS Equity


Aubrey Moore

Hey Ardy, wouldn’t you agree PPS Is A Mess!? – The Concerned Youth

Let me start by saying I forgot to credit Emily Ehlers (The Senior of Seniors//insta: @zig.zag.lines) in the last issue for her beautiful drawing of me. So, give her props if you see her in the halls. Thanks EDE ?

Also, I got some good feedback from the last issue and that makes me warm and fuzzy all over, so thanks to you, freaks!

So! Is PPS really a mess you ask? Hmm. I think Yes. There, you have my answer. But I don’t think that was really what you wanted to know.

I think the questions you really want answered are what aspects of PPS are a mess? Why? And how can they be resolved?

I start again this week interviewing the Great and Powerful Peyton Chapman. Until we have money to build new schools, the first step to making change for PPS is equity.

Chapman says it herself: “One of the things [the PPS board and the District] have talked about, at least in the last 5-8 years was an equity-weighted budget… An equal budget wouldn’t be fair because students have unequal needs.”

Chapman elaborates how this weighting works, “[The budget] provides about 8 percent more funding to schools that have more historically underserved kids.”

If you asked her what she means by “historically underserved kids”? She’d tell ya “historically underserved kids can be defined by: race, socioeconomic status, also special education, English language learners, and homeless students.” After she explained that, you’d probably thank your principal graciously for sharing her knowledge with a petty common folk such as yourself. Jk jk, luuuv u friends <3

This is where the statistics come into play. When I brought up the question of inequity in the school system with Ms. Chapman, she lent me her very own copy of the 2014-15 School Profiles & Enrollment Data book (Eeek!). This inch-thick statistic compilation gave me some great insight.

Here’s the jaw dropping fact I’ll probably be referring to until I die: in 2014, 138 students at Lincoln High School qualified to receive free meals (8.7 percent). That same year, Every. Single. Student. at Jefferson, Madison, and Roosevelt High Schools (2,517 students) qualified for a free meal plan.

The budget makers use the term “Budget Rank” to refer to PPS schools’ financial needs. Lincoln is ranked 10/10 and thus receives the least amount of money at $6,029/student. Jefferson is ranked 2/10, receiving $9,256/student. How do they come up with those numbers is the question? Let’s compare some more stats (from the 2014-15 school year):

At Lincoln

  • 5.1 of percent students are “economically disadvantaged.”
  • 4.7 percent require “special education”
  • We earn the most money of any school from parent fundraising (in one year we raised $450,000), and only have to  give ⅓ of it away for use by other schools.
  • We are one of two PPS schools to offer a full IB program (Cleveland is the other), which drives colleges to us like flies to a mudpie

At Jefferson

  • 52.5 percent of students are “economically disadvantaged”
  • 14.4 percent require “special education”
  • The student suspension rate is 25.4 percent (compared to the district average: 5.2 percent)

Basically, since a large percentage of Lincoln families were nowhere near poverty, and have kiddos that were coming into high school with more advantages, Lincoln received $6,029/student in the 2014-15 school year.

Compare that to Jefferson., which isn’t even a neighborhood school! There were 1,453 high school kids living in the Jefferson neighborhood in 2014, but only 331 of them actually went there. Families are moving to the more affordable part of town and sending their kids way out of the way to schools outside of the neighborhood so they don’t have to go to the No. 2-budget ranked, public school in Portland. Damn. This hurts to write about. Let’s move on to progress.

We already know why this is. Portland is divided quite heavily into socioeconomic groups. North Portland has long been the poorest area while the West Hills is the richest. Thankfully, PPS does in fact pay attention to this and adjusts accordingly with its Budget Ranking.

In the end, while PPS may be a mess, I can’t blame the district completely because Portland is a bit of a mess as well and is a cause of the schools’ problems. I gotta give the district the credit they deserve for making some progress in distributing funds equitably, even though I, and hopefully everyone I know, demand more from them.

There are a lot of factors that I couldn’t get to in this short article, and even more that I just don’t understand. What is the leading cause of so many suspensions at Jefferson that Lincoln doesn’t have as big of a problem with? Why don’t other schools have IB? How did it get this bad?

Until next time my sweet, maturing youth. Ardy out!

Got a question about local affairs, or just want to send me fan mail?: [email protected]. XOXO -R.D.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email