SEPTEMBER 14, 2011
In a deplorable waste of taxpayer dollars, a hip-hop themed public high school that has taken more than two years and half a million dollars to plan will never open its doors in Oregon.It’s bad enough that Portland education officials approved the failed project in the first place. Many admitted having “lingering concerns about the school’s academic curriculum” before giving it the green light in 2009, but went along with it because they appreciated its “innovation, creativity and potential to draw students who aren’t being served in the district’s current system.”Reading between the lines that likely means perpetually low-performing minority students who might find inspiration in a hip-hop music and dance theme. The idea, according to the woman behind the publicly funded charter school, was to prepare students to be successful in society while engaging them through recording arts.But the charter school will never open its doors because planners failed to have the minimum curriculum and materials, according to a local newspaper report. Not only did they blow 500,000 taxpayer dollars, they owe an additional $200,000 for renovations to the building. The spent money, compliments of Uncle
Sam, came in three chunks—$50,000 for planning and two separate $225,000 “implementation” grants.Now that the cash has been lost, the Portland School District finally cut off further funding, citing an “astounding lack of readiness.” It only took them two years to come to this realization. The woman who was in charge of the disastrous charter school, a local parent, actually blames state and district authorities for not regulating her and the school more forcefully. She’s right.The idea behind the now defunct REAL Prep Charter Academy was certainly unique. It promised to offer a “revolutionary 21st century education” created by global artists and activists, among others. Students would benefit from “brain-based learning” as well as “project-based learning” and “real cultural competency.” We will never know exactly what this means.One student who enrolled at the charter says he was promised that he could work at his own pace rather than be held back like in a traditional public school. His mother said she was sold on the charter’s promise that kids would learn academic skills by doing “meaningful hands-on projects” like starting their own record company.
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