Portland Public Schools this May will ask district residents—most of whom do not have schoolchildren—to support a $548 million bond to upgrade aging schools. The district may also ask taxpayers to support an operating levy costing millions more.
But any sacrifice of taxpayers without kids is absent among some parents with kids at Alameda Elementary. Some roguish parents in that tony Northeast Portland neighborhood are fuming over a PPS proposal to shift some of their children from Alameda to attend Sabin K-8 school, just a dozen blocks away.
Alameda parents say the district hasn’t given them adequate notice or due process, nor has it considered whether underpopulated Sabin might grow on its own without absorbing 25 students a year from overcrowded nearby schools. “Families living in areas likely to be rezoned were not informed or fairly represented,” wrote Alameda parent Marie Tindall in a Jan. 13 email.
On Facebook, in blog posts and at public meetings, Alameda parents fret over what they term an injustice—and the oft-expressed concern their property values may plummet.
That last consideration gets closer to where the Rogue Desk suspects their objections may really be rooted: in race and class. Only 14 percent of Alameda students are minority and fewer than 1 in 10 is poor enough to qualify for free lunch. At Sabin, according to PPS figures, more than half the kids are minority and nearly as many are low-income. Send your child to school with such ruffians, the theory goes, and your home’s value drops faster than Sarah Palin’s approval ratings.
But here’s the key number: Alameda is at 103 percent of capacity, while Sabin is only 60 percent full. The rationale underlying the district’s high-school redesign and bond measure is equalization of opportunity. That concept is no less valid in elementary and middle schools. No less valid, that is, unless you happen to be an Alameda parent.