Hillsboro's Hostages

Posted on December 9, 2012 by

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[Reposted from my blog at http://hillsboroerik.com .]

Recently the Hillsboro School Board denied a request by the residents of South Cooper Mountain to transfer their neighborhood from the Hillsboro to the Beaverton school district. The first step is for Hillsboro to approve– but our school board refused.      It looks to me like this was clearly a decision that was not in the best interests of the children.

Why would it make sense to transfer this neighborhood into the Beaverton school district?

  • Their main argument was simple geography:  while they were in the Hillsboro district for historical reasons, they sit on the border of the Beaverton district, and Beaverton schools are much closer. The closest elementary and middle schools in Beaverton are .5 and 3.7 miles away, while the correponding distances for Hillsboro are 3 and 9 miles. And Beaverton is planning a new high school in the area, while the nearest Hillsboro high school is 10 miles away.
  • Due to these distances, as part of the Beaverton district, many students would be able to walk or bike to school,while as part of Hillsboro they would depend completely on buses. Aren’t we supposed to be encouraging physical activity in students these days?
  • Beaverton is generally considered a much better school district overall. Shouldn’t every parent have a right to demand the best possible education for their children from among available options?
  • Beaverton also offers many opportunities through its “learning options” program that simply aren’t available in Hillsboro: magnet schools with Arts, International, and STEM foci, and two charter schools specializing in foreign language immersion.
  • Every homeowner in the neigborhood has signed on to this request.

Hillsboro’s arguments against this change do not seem very impressive. Reading the Argus articleon the vote, we see the following counter-arguments from the district:

  • Hillsboro would lose the $5.7 million in state funding that would move to Beaverton with the students.  But board member Monte Akers, one of the few not to vote against the Cooper Mountatin residents, pointed out that each student currently costs the district slightly more than the state funding received, so the net effect on Hillsboro’s budget would be negligible.    And we should also point out that no money is being “lost” by the public education system as a whole; we’re just changing which district spends it.
  • Hillsboro is growing and is capable of accomodating the neighborhood.   But I don’t see why this is an argument against the transfer– certainly it is also capable of not accomodating the neighborhood, if that’s what is best for the students.  And if the district population isn’t growing, won’t the removal of some students help by slowing down the increase?
  • This would “hurt” the closest elementary school, Groner, which would have fewer students. Again, why is this a compelling reason to fail to provide the best education possible for each student?
  • Worry about the precedent this would set.   In the words of board member Carolyn Ortmann, “You don’t start whittling away the district”.

The last argument is what I find most disturbing. Clearly the board is afraid that if the precedent is set, other boundary regions who are not being well-served by Hillsboro’s education system will also look for opportunities to flee the district. My answer to this is: what matters more, the power and money of Hillsboro’s school district, or the actual education of children? The board’s primary goal should be to provide the best possible education for every child in the district. If this goal is best served for certain students by allowing them to be educated in another district, they should support that. And if they don’t, then it is clear that the board and administration consider their personal empire more important than the children they claim to serve.
If you believe the Hillsboro school board and administration should consider children’s education their top priority, call the Hillsboro School District at 503-844-1500 and email schoolboard@hsd.k12.or.us , and demand that board members Ortmann, Canas, Sollman, Strelchun, and Lantz change their votes on the South Cooper Mountain issue. And if they refuse, remember this when board members Ortmann, Sollman, and Lantz come up for re-election this May.

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