A Lottery Mentality: The Recent Lotto Buzz, School Choice, and the Superintendent’s 2012-2013 Budget Proposal

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the lottery.  Late last week, my Facebook homepage was jammed with status updates about buying lottery tickets for the big jackpot.  There was a buzz to each update and lots of planning about what each person would do if they won.  It struck me that my friends and acquaintances were convinced that this would actually be a way to find the financial stability they have been desperately seeking during this time of economic instability and pressure that far too many of us have experienced over the last few years.  And all of this in the face of the fact that the chance of winning is completely and absurdly small.

How does this relate to schools?  It relates to the so-called saving grace of the public school system — school choice — and the lottery applications that were due at the beginning of March.  A friend of mine was torn between submitting a bid for her child at the school of her dreams with a very slim chance (less chance than the average person applying to Harvard) to get in or submitting a bid for a school she felt was adequate but not ideal (with a 50-50 chance of being picked).  She was devastated that (a) her neighborhood school wasn’t providing the kind of creative, individualized, strong learning that she feels her child (and all children) deserve and (b) that she has to roll the dice for even a small chance for her child to go to a school that will provide the kind of stimulation that will help them grow.

For all of the students who don’t get their names submitted into the lottery (for so many reasons), for all of the students who don’t have schools that are well-funded or well-supported but don’t have the option of having a parent drive them across town to a charter school, for all of the students who don’t get chosen for the school of their dreams…this system is not working.  A system that is based on the small chance that a child may get the education that they deserve is not an equitable system.

With that said, there’s a buzz in the air about the PPS Superintendant’s budget proposal for the 2012-2013 school year.  The proposal includes over 100 teaching positions that will be cut, over 30 administrator positions cut, no additional funding for the Outdoor School program, changes to Title I funding distribution, the merging of Humboldt with Boise-Elliot school, and the closing of the Young Women’s Academy.  Read the proposal, and let me know what you think.  The linked proposal also includes information on the upcoming community meetings where you can raise your voice to discuss the proposed changes/cuts (April 9 at Cleveland High School, 5:00 p.m. & April 11 at Roosevelt High School, 6:00 p.m.).  Most importantly, Carole Smith is quoted as saying the following:

“As a state, we must commit to a different approach to funding education in alignment with the outcomes we want for every student … We cannot continue to build a vision for education in the 21st century, while we dismantle the foundation of our educational system every year.”

Think on this, fellow community members and voters.  We do not have a stable funding source for our schools.  What are you willing to do to make a change?

As always, I welcome your thoughts.  And I also encourage you to check back here in the next few days for a guest post by a passionate, amazing Portland Public School teacher and long-time community member on this topic!

Happy Spring Term…

-Zapoura

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