Stop leaving most children behind

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

While most Portlanders are focused on the Portland Public School District’s financial woes and plans to close more schools, a new group is beginning to question why the district even deserves to control where their kids go to school.

The Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) is a national organization dedicated to empowering parents to find the best schools for their children, even if those schools fall outside public school district control.

Three Black Portlanders recently attended BAEO’s national symposium in Philadelphia and returned eager to grow the group here, primarily within the Jefferson High School boundaries in North Portland. They recently helped Cascade Policy Institute release a report documenting that Jefferson has failed most of its students academically for over thirty years.

Rather than let the school district impose another set of reforms that are likely to fail, local BAEO members agree with Oregonian columnist S. Renee Mitchell when she wrote that “At some point, Jefferson parents need to recognize the painful truth: Their emotional love affair with this underused building is one-sided.”

Local BAEO member and former Trail Blazer Michael Harper put it even more bluntly, “There are no excuses for any public school failing to teach children to read, write and do math at a level that will allow them to thrive in American society. It is every African-American child’s civil right to have access to a school that will prepare them to succeed. As BAEO members we are committed to fighting for that civil right and we will not take No for an answer.”

The establishment has had little trouble dismissing academic advocates of school choice. It will have a harder time telling this growing group of Black parents that they don’t deserve real options after the public school system has failed their children for thirty years.

Steve Buckstein is senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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