- Forest Grove News-Times - Opinion
Mascot ban raises constitutional issues
I read with interest a recent story in the Los Angeles Times about Oregon banning Native American mascots. As a lawyer, I considered the constitutionality of this measure. The image of the Banks Brave depicted looks more like Dog the Bounty Hunter than an actual member of one of our venerated First Civilization tribes.
The mohawk is East Coast or modern punk, the feathers are plains and the war paint and earring do not appear to be authentic. (However, I admit I am no expert on tribal war paint or jewelry.)
In order to ban this image the state school board would have to prove that it is an actual Native American. The Banks High School image is clearly not.If the board is relying on the phenotype (the external manifestation of one's genetic make up) to determine which images may not be included as school mascots, then their proscription is not race-neutral as is required to pass constitutional review.It would not be constitutional to allow images with Euro-centric features and names such as Vikings, but disallow images with non-white features. In fact, it is pure and simple racism. Moreover, the measure allows for the mascot to be 'The Mongols,' 'The Zulus' or 'The Aborigines,' but not named after local civilizations in which Americans take enormous pride. Mascots are chosen because we associate them with heroic qualities. Too bad the Oregon State School Board does not exhibit the same level of tolerance which was exhibited by our Native Americans.
I'm sure Portlandia soon will have a hilarious episode on this topic.
Collaboration needed on budget
On May 17, the Forest Grove School District Budget Committee approved the superintendent's $3.1 million budget reductions, of which 98 percent are cuts that will directly impact our students' educational experience.
The administration is only impacted by 2 percent, and that is through attrition. It is difficult to understand how this budget will allow the district to offer the 'quality comprehensive educational program' the superintendent boasts of in her budget proposal letter.
A small group of parents listened with unease to the discussion (and subsequent approval) of the 2012-2013 budget. And it was a small group. The News-Times did not even send a reporter.
We listened to the familiar statements: 'There is only so much we can do,' 'No one wants to make cuts,' and 'There are no easy choices.' And yet, the community has been more than clear with ideas, suggestions and input regarding where to make these additional cuts. However, the superintendent and school board chose not to be influenced by all of our input.
It needs to be repeated that the public understands that cuts are required. We get it. We do. But the superintendent and the board members are doing it wrong.
Budget committee members Jonathan Kipp and Angela Arena both attempted to argue the need for public support and buy-in. Arena advocated for more cuts at the administrative level in order for less impact to the students of the district.
Kipp wondered aloud if the public understands the need for an expensive PR person for the district. Community members wanted to know if that position could be made into a part-time position. He asserted that the community believes that if it is truly about the kids, they want budget cuts that impact the students the least.
Again, the 2012-2013 budget that was just passed impacted the administration by just 2 percent and everyone else by 98 percent. Somehow, though, the superintendent and some board/budget committee members said and agreed with statements like: 'I think we're at a tipping point with administrators' and 'I don't know how we'd get anything done.' This is pure bureaucracy protecting itself. As parents, we wonder how the teachers 'are able to get anything done.' What is their tipping point? In the 2012-2013 school year they will have increased class sizes and workload. The students will have six days cut from their school year.
After the devastating cuts made in the district last year and the subsequent public outcry, we had all hoped for a more creative and collaborative approach. Sadly, it felt more like a repeat of last year.
Time to consolidate school districts?
Every year continued school budget cuts top the news. But rarely do you hear of administration cuts. Instead it's teachers, instructional assistants and activity programs.
The time is now to consider consolidation of services. Let's explore real savings. Create a western Washington County School District. Bring Vernonia, Banks, Gaston and Forest Grove together. Think of the savings: currently all superintendents and their assistants all make six figures. Each one you cut adds back two teachers.
Think of all the duplicate program heads. The buying power for supplies would also lower costs. Less district office buildings in use, energy savings. The economies of scale are a tremendous upside.
There will be detractors who cite local control would be lost, which could happen to a small extent. Adding board positions and assuring representation from each area should keep some control in place.
Let's look at face value here. How much control is there? With every district struggling for money, all the time is spent cutting programs. What do you think you would lose?
So I encourage the powers that be to think outside the box. Explore options, maybe even include Hillsboro and create the largest district in the state.