class in public education

Chris Brady cdbrady at
Thu Sep 5 13:14:25 MDT 2002

{see my note at the end --c}

New high school called ‘a palace’

 Some say spending at West Salem High comes at the expense of other
district schools.

by TRACY LOEW, Statesman Journal, Salem, Oregon, September 2, 2002

 The new West Salem High School boasts 700 new instructional computers,
or one for every 1.7 students. Across town at North Salem High School,
there are 150 instructional computers, or one for every 12.7 students.

 West Salem High’s athletic facilities are unparalleled in the area,
with four tennis courts, two softball fields, two baseball fields, four
soccer fields and a 2,900-seat football stadium. At South Salem High
School, the booster club was handed the bill for a $150,000 renovation
of the sagging stadium bleachers, which had been condemned.

 At West Salem High, there are more instruments than musicians to play
them and 12,000 brand-new books in the library, with more arriving each
day. McKay High, which serves the district’s largest number of poor
families, can’t let students study some subjects at home because there
aren’t enough texts to go around.

 Though the Salem-Keizer School district clearly needed a new high
school — climbing enrollment pushed the five existing high schools past
capacity years ago — some say lavish spending on the new West Salem
High, located in a neighborhood of $300,000-plus homes, has come at the
expense of promised upgrades to older schools in poorer areas.

 “West Salem High School is a palace,” parent Gaelen McAllister said.
“It would be nice if all our schools could be like that.”


 That bothers school board member Craig Smith.

 “Just because it’s new, they shouldn’t have higher computer ratios or
better equipment than the other schools,” Smith said.


 Equity issues extend beyond construction of the building, critics say:

 West parents were outraged when the school was unable to offer six
foreign languages.  West dropped Japanese at the last minute, citing low

student demand and budget constraints.  But the other five high schools
offer only three or four languages, despite higher enrollments.

 West, which will have fewer than 500 juniors and seniors this year, is
offering 10 Advanced Placement courses. Sprague, by comparison, will
offer six AP classes to more than 800 juniors and seniors.

 School board members also have expressed concern about the fairness of
West’s new $250,000 engineering technology program.

 North High teachers have worked for 15 years to build a similar program

from scratch.


 The new high school has had a ripple effect on staff and programs at
the other schools as well.

 To fill its 44 teaching slots, West drew heavily from the ranks of the
other five high schools.

 South and McNary were hardest hit, losing 15 teachers each. North lost
eight; Sprague and McKay six. And seven West staffers came from area
middle schools.

 “We’ve lost some very, very high-quality teachers,” McNary Principal
John Bohlander said.

 For example, McNary’s Latin teacher went to West, taking the school’s
Latin program with her.

 “With the uncertainty of being able to find a Latin teacher, we didn’t
even offer Latin I last year,” Bohlander said. Latin will not be offered

at McNary this year.

 West’s opening also has resulted in an unusually small freshman class
at South. That’s because, with West Salem students no longer going to
South, boundaries were redrawn to include some families formerly
assigned to Sprague. Those families protested, saying they wanted their
children to go to school with their neighbors’ children. District
officials approved transfer requests for about 80 freshmen from those

 That will translate into fewer class sections for South freshmen,
principal Kris Olsen said.

{More to the point, Sprague and South were, in that order, the high
schools that served the highest incomes/property values neighbourhoods
in Salem before West Salem High School opened this Fall term.
Consideration of the superior facilities and smaller class sizes, it's
no wonder that these families wanted their kids to go to the new, and
improved, facility.  Meanwhile, the poorest school, with the highest
number of students, named after a Republican Governor who was the
state's biggest land-owner, also has the largest number of minority
students and English Language Learners--and history textbooks that have
Ronald Reagan as the last US President, and economic textbooks that fail

to mention, let alone define-- economic class. I provide the above for
case study evidence of the effect of class on and in public education in

the United States --during a time when teachers are laid off and budgets

cut because of lack of funding.}

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