Portland Public Schools is currently examining issues of inequity, looking to re-balance schools across the city. An advisory committee was formed and with community input, plan to guide the school board toward a solution.
When I went to Harriet Tubman Middle School we had a marine biology program. I took zoology. We dissected animals. We had Bunsen burners in more than one classroom. We had a dark room where we developed our own pictures from the cameras we made. We had two PE teachers, but I was able to opt out of PE and take dance instead. I felt like my opportunities were endless. My children will not have those same opportunities at Boise-Eliot/Humboldt. There are limited classrooms to share with 10 grade levels. The PE teacher is forced to teach 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 year olds in the same room. The same room where they have 15 minutes a day to eat lunch. The same room where they hold assemblies. And that is just a small piece of the problematic puzzle. Like many other (P)K-8s in the city, Boise-Eliot/Humboldt is not okay
I’m tired of my children’s school being used as the dumping ground for neglected poor, Black, and brown children. Just take a look at the last decade. Portland Public Schools shut down Tubman and threw the middle school kids in Boise. They shut down Humboldt and threw the kids in Boise. And now folks are talking about turning King (another historically under served, predominately minority school) into a middle school and throwing even more kids into Boise. And for what? For kids to be able to ride their bikes to school. Guess what? Owning a bike is a privilege. Many of our kids cannot even afford a bike to have that option. And many parents don’t even own reliable cars. What of the King students who live in low income housing at McCoy Village who are able to walk to school? Are we to force them into Boise? Our schools have suffered historical trauma and people want to destroy them again so their kids can bike to school? Quite frankly, I’m disgusted that a committee put together to address issues with equity is even entertaining the idea. Shame on you.
And I do not apologize for the anger that many will read into my words. I simply refuse to sit quietly and watch our children be cast aside; further neglected so that the trivial desires of the privileged are met.
They think they can treat our kids like they are disposable because we (their parents) are not always here. They think we’re not here because we don’t care. They think because we’re busy trying to avoid institutionalized oppression, busy fighting for our liberation, busy working our asses off to put food on the table and keep the lights on, busy putting our own mental and physical health to the side to support our kids with graveyard shifts and second jobs and school, busy fighting generational poverty that we will not stop them from discarding our children. They think wrong
I am tired of our children being reduced to numbers. Enrollment = $ = programming. But what = our children succeeding? What = our children becoming doctors and lawyers and web designers and architects and entrepreneurs. What = our kids being valued and feeling heard? What = our kids being loved and understood? What = our kids breaking the centuries old cycle of poverty.
Why are “successful” affluent schools being preserved? Why are schools full of kids who are attached to resources that ensure their success no matter where they go left untouched? Why are people asking that our vulnerable kids be disrupted again? Why are we wasting energy addressing the wants of the dominant group while ignoring the needs of the marginalized? Why is that energy not put into making sure SPED students are transitioned with care? Why is that energy not put into promoting effective communication with non native English speaking families? Why is that energy not put into building a working plan to increase the cultural competency of staff? Why is that energy not put into practicing trauma informed care? Why is that energy not put into making sure we have heard the concerns of every poor, Black and brown family? If you haven’t heard their voices, why are you not doing more to reach out to them?
Our kids are not “falling” because they are poor, Black, and brown. Portland Public Schools is failing our kids because we are poor, Black, and brown. This city has a long history of doing so and it’s no secret. We’ve had enough of that. We no longer accept the failure of our children. And if we have to jump up on tables and demand to be heard again, well, you better get ready to clutch your pearls.
I do not claim to know what the best solution is to our current equity or funding problems in Portland Public Schools. I am no expert. The experts get paid hefty salaries to figure it all out. But I do know what equity is. I know what oppression is. And I can tell you that any plan that does not put the most vulnerable groups (poor, minority, SPED, ELL, etc) at the forefront of discussions is not equitable. It is time to cut the crap and do what is right by our kids (all of our kids) for once.
Update: I wanted to note that although I am advocating for my children’s school in this post, I firmly stand in support of all the schools throughout the city that have been ignored over the years. To the Cesar Chavez, Lee, Scott, King, Woodlawn, Beach, Vestal, George, etc. families who have suffered at the hands of PPS, I stand with you. If there is ever any way I can lend a voice (or an ear) to your concerns, please feel free to reach out.