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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Golden Rule, Portland-style

Here's a story to get us all thinking about how "public" public education really is. The toniest public high school in Portland, Lincoln High, is out of money for a football coach -- but the principal's hitting up parents to donate $30,000 so that she can hire a good one anyway.

That doesn't sound like an option that anyone would even talk about at most public high schools in the city, or state.

If you accept the benefits of public education for your children, should you have to accept the same quality of experience as is provided at the other public schools in your district? Or should you be allowed to throw some money and buy up from what the taxpayers are handing you?

Comments (21)

I don't know, Jack. My co-workers with kids hit us up with fundraisers for band or school trips or this team (girls) or the other team (girls) all the time. And none of these kids are attending Lincoln. It's perhaps a different way of fundraising (as in not selling candy or restaurant vouchers or whatever) but it's not really that different, except those of us who don't have kids in schools don't get hit up for money under the Lincoln scenario.

Since you brought up band and school trips:

I'd like to take this opportunity to say 2 of my nephews played in Carnegie Hall this year with their public high school bands.
I don't know if it's relevant to this post, but my best gig was a party for Bill Walton. You have to be proud where you can.

I know that public school team members routinely raise money for uniforms, trips, and so on. But 30 grand for a coach?

Or worse: You could be a public school that charges tuition - like Riverdale.

To me, that's the real outrage. It's flat-out unconstitutional in Washington State - but in Oregon? You can't even discuss reforming that rule down at the Lege.

I think there's a significant difference between fundraising for a school trip, uniforms, etc, and fundraising to hire staff. And what if this approach was used, say, to fund a teacher position for a Calculus class, as opposed to a football coach? If it became a standard way of doing business, it might cause taxpayers to provide even less general funding for schools.

One possible solution: Allow all the fundraising that the parents will stand, but require a cut - say, 25% - right off the top, to go to the general fund for every school to use.

Will she have to fork over a share of the donated money to the Portland Schools Foundation to be shared with other schools. That's what happens with most other fundraisers.

Just asking ...

Yeah, that's kinda BS. Personally, I never have donated or participated in fundraisers for public schools. Even for the ones my three kids went to. It was bad enough to have to spend hundreds of dollars a year for my girls to participate in choir. Besides, they get enough of my money in April. The idiots in Salem need to learn how to spend it properly.
And I never let my kids participate in the little "Amway" projects like selling wrapping paper and crap like that either.

This brought back an old blog post from my college friend, Teacherrefpoet.

John Rettig / Garage Wine -

1/3 anything raised at any PPS site in one of these funding drives goes to the Portland Schools Foundation, Inc., to be spent as grants at PPS sites other than the one at which the funds were rtaised.

At Glencoe Elementary (Mt. Tabor area), where there isn't funding for an art teacher, parents take turns coming in with art projects throughout the year. In some way you could say it's the same thing--parents in one area are able to provide something for their children that parents in another area can't. (or don't or won't)

IMHO the $30k should be spent on teachers not coaches!

Personally I think schools are already getting enough money to fund everything if it was spent better. I would fight a levy or tax increase to higher that football coach.

That said, I have no problems with schools fundraising for things. At that point it's the parents and communities choice to give the school more money or not. Can this lead to an imbalance between schools? Yep, sure can but that's life people.

Way too much emphasis on football and not enough on reading, writing and math even at Lincoln.

Nonny Mouse: Thanks for the information; I wasn't aware this was already done this way.

Darrin: School funding is determined (mostly) by the state. The portion of your property tax going to school operations is capped at 0.5% of assessed valuation, more or less - we did have a few years of a 0.075% local option tax a while back.

John, not sure where you are going with that comment. I know how schools are funded and don't have a problem with them asking for contributions to hire a coach.

Public schools in wealthy neighborhoods always have more support than those that aren't. Parents are more involved and can pay for "extras." That's just the way it is.

Solution: Shut down the athletic program. Why should I have to pay for a select few kids to ride chartered motorcoaches across the state each Friday when the schools can't even perform their basic functions?

Little League, as an example, is a private organization. If the high school football players want to play organized football they can organize - and pay for - their own league. Surely the Les Schwabs will be willing to donate a little extra for scholarships for the kids who can't afford it. Leave the school system out of it.

Darrin - I was only speaking to your comment "I would fight a levy or tax increase to higher [sic] that football coach".

There would be no levy or tax increase to fight, unless it were a local option, which would probably not go over too well for a football coach.

Personally, I'm not that bothered, because the money is coming from the people who actually want the football program in the first place. This is opposed to the program at my old high school, where football is paid for first. I was actually hit up for funds by my old school so that English teachers could afford paper for tests and art teachers could afford paint and sculpting materials, but the football field gets its annual resodding and the coaches make in excess of a quarter-mil per year. All to stay "competitive," mind you.

Of course, this is in North Texas, where the Great God Fuh-Boh is the one true deity. (As the old joke goes, if any legislator tries pushing through a bill that might affect high school or college football in the state, Jehovah Himself couldn't protect the poor fool from popular wrath.) This is also the reason why smartalecks like me joke about how we can't sing the school's fight song at class reunions because "Dueling Banjos" has no lyrics, and the locals respond "...so?"

If you think public education is an important institution -- and I do -- then I think you have to allow this kind of fundraising. Otherwise, you're just going to scare away all of the families with means from the public schools, and you'll be left with a second tier public system that only serves the middle and low-income families. (This already has occurred in PPS to a certain extent compared to 20 years ago.)

The state constitution limits how much of your property tax can go to schools. I would absolutely pay more in taxes for public education, even if it went to other schools in the district. I think a majority of Portlanders would as well, if the voter-approved income tax surcharge a few years back is any indication. But so long as the state restricts our ability to tax ourselves, then I think you have to allow external fundraising.

It results in inequity. But the alternative is even worse.

John, yes it is a local issue and thought using the word levy implied if I was in that school district.

Texas Triffid Ranch, had to travel to Austing for work. Sitting in my hotel room flipping through channels I was shocked to find little league football being shown. I had heard football was big in Texas but that really drove the point home.

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