Friday, April 22, 2011

The depressing state of public education in Oregon...

This year I seem to have gotten myself on a bunch of committees. One of the committees is the campaign committee for our local elementary school, which I love. Because our kids are spread so far apart, we will be at the beloved elementary school for 16--yes--16 years!

I am not crazy about raising money, to be honest, but my role was supposed to be mostly writing and publicity. I can handle that. I've enjoyed getting to know the younger moms, whose oldest or only children are the ones now at the school, instead of their middle or younger ones (like me and one other mom who's been around for awhile).

As I've written before, this year is the first year without any music at our elementary school, and that's why I go in to sing with the kids once a week. That's depressing enough...along with our beloved principal retiring and the current lack of leadership in the school (the interim principal is not anywhere near as engaged), it would be easy to understand teachers feeling really burnt out this year. I'm really hoping the new principal will be able to re-engage the parents and staff in a totally new way, to revitalize the community.

Now the Portland Schools are facing yet another huge funding crisis. If the voters do not support the levy and bond this spring, they will have to make even more massive cuts. Oregon's tax structure is so screwed (no reliable source of revenue from a sales tax), so the whole state continues to struggle. How to explain this to school children? The class sizes can NOT get any bigger.

In the meantime, Portland is proposing to build a streetcar line to the rich suburbs of Lake Oswego. Even though I realize this project is a sweet spot for my own company, I can't in good faith support the spending of tax dollars on streetcar building while the schools suffer.

At any rate, at this meeting the other night, two of the moms announced that they were pulling their children out of the school and sending them to private schools. Another one of the moms is seriously considering it. Part of the reason is they feel their kids are not getting challenged enough at school. They also want their children to have music.

I support their right to send their children to private school--and I'm sure I would do the same if I felt that my children's needs were not being meant by the public schools--but I felt so depressed that evening. Two (and possibly three) great, engaged families--who have spent a lot of time supporting the schools--dropping out of the system. The more parents like that who drop out of public school, the worse shape the schools will be in. (We have applied for a private high school for Chris, because we feel he is more likely to thrive there--so maybe I'm being a hypocrite.)  It makes me so mad at our society that we do not value public schools more and fund them (and teachers) at the level they should be funded. Our kids deserve better!!!

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