I’m sorry to report that, without a doubt, Portland Public Schools is broken for students in poverty and for Black and brown students. I would bluntly offer that “progressive” school leaders over the last five years have exacerbated this problem, creating the worst, most expensive academic gap for Black students and students in poverty in Maine.

Let me explain the gap. White kids in Portland Public Schools are doing great. We have one of the best school systems for white kids in the state of Maine. According to Portland Public Schools’ English Language Arts test score, they score about 10 percent better than the average white kid in Maine. However, we do one of the worst jobs educating Black kids: They score about 10 percent below the average Black kid in Maine. Other schools with large Black populations, like South Portland, Westbrook, Biddeford, Saco, Bangor, Lewiston and Auburn, do a better educating their Black kids then we do.

We also spend more per kid than all these school districts, with South Portland being the exception.

The academic racial gap in Portland is almost double the state average, but it is never a priority with the progressive school board and with local progressive groups like Equity for Portland, Progressive Portland and the Maine Democratic Socialists of America.

Portland also does a worse job educating kids in poverty. In fact, the math gap for students in poverty is almost 40 percent. This means, in Portland Public Schools, if a white kid who is not in poverty scores a barely passing grade of 70 percent, the average white kid in poverty scores 30 percent – and for Black kids, it’s worse.

Guess which kids can go on to to college and which kids stay in poverty – potentially for a lifetime? Yup: Black and brown kids in poverty. Guess where systemic and institutional racism comes from? Pipelines that create poverty for people of color but a good system for white students – i.e. – the gap.

I don’t blame these gaps on our schoolteachers; we have some of the best. I blame this on progressive school leaders who distract and create new programs or make expensive building renovations that take funding away from the most vulnerable populations. Adding to the fire – a decided lack of focus on the issues of Black and brown students.

Progressive school leaders in the last five years were responsible for about 85 percent of all the property tax increases in Portland, escalating rents and hurting Black and brown people in poverty. Where is the equity in that? Where is the progressivism in this? Where is the socialism in this?

As for the lack of focus: The group Equity for Portland Schools has been silent about the most expensive and worst academic gap for Black students and students in poverty. Their recent City Council and school board candidate questionnaire asked about climate change, housing and immigrant voting rights, but nothing about the academic gap for Black students and students in poverty. This is a blatant sin of omission, and our poor Black and brown students pay the price. Other “progressive” groups can claim similar dubious distinction.

Last year the progressive Board of Education members spent more time debating whether Portland school employees should get hazard pay should get paid than they did addressing 900 students of color who weren’t coming to school, and they spend almost $200,000 for hazard pay but nothing for bilingual outreach workers or bilingual social workers. If your focus is on hazard pay over the kids you are responsible for, where is the equity in that?

As a person of color, I am enraged with these groups’ obsession with creating a perfect politically correct community while they neglect the fundamental issues like addressing poverty, housing, mental health and the academic gap for people in poverty and people of color, especially in our school systems.

We have the most expensive, worst academic gap for Black students and students in poverty in Maine. Institutional racism isn’t a person – it is a system that benefits white people and a system that is a detriment to Black and brown people and people in poverty. This is what we have in the progressive-led Portland Public Schools.


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