Portland Public Schools Need Champions

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Portland Needs the Best Possible Learning Environment

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Portland Public Schools Need Champions

Oregon's public-school system has long struggled to gain support from state and city governments. Oregon Territorial Legislature approved a public-school system in 1849 and Portland's first "free school" opened its doors on December 15, 1851.[1]


However, it took a decade for Portland to develop a viable public-school system. Why? As we hear today, many people without children didn't want to pay for public schools they wouldn't use. In the days prior to statehood, many government leaders questioned the value of a free public education.


Today, Portland Public Schools is a Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 urban school district with over 49,000 students in 81 schools. Since 2010, Oregon's population has increased by over 400,000 people[2] since 2010, resulting in steady enrollment in Portland Public Schools.


The challenges facing teachers and students today are far more serious, than when I was in public-school. Gun violence in American schools has become an all to frequent occurrence. In Oregon, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 to 24. Violent attacks by students on teachers is also an alarming trend in schools across America.


The Portland Association of Teachers (PAC), represents more than 4000 professional educators in the Portland Public School system. Recently, Suzanne Cohen, PAC President and Elizabeth Thiel, PAC Vice Chair were kind enough to take time from her busy schedules to explain the union's mission. Simply put, the PAC's mission is to create the best possible learning environment for our students, by protecting their profession and advocating for front line educators.


Oregon state, county and city legislators have been slow to provide funding to provide our teachers with adequate compensation, training, equipment and classrooms. The city of Portland has also failed to collaborate or communicate with the Portland School Board on new housing developments that resulted in unexpected increases in class sizes.


Ms. Cohen emphasized that Portland's schools and teachers need champions in city government to champion their causes and to improve collaboration and communication. I pledge to be that outspoken advocate for our schools, teachers and students, if elected to be Portland City Commissioner.


[1] Historical Sketch of the Public Schools of Portland, Oregon by T.H. Crawford in 1888.


[2] Portland State University Population Research Center, November 15, 2019.


This article was reprinted with permission from Jack Kerfoot. Jack is a candidate for Portland Commissioner.


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