Affirmative action approved for Portland schools

Art pencils (KOIN 6 News, file)
Art pencils (KOIN 6 News, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland Public Schools’ plan to hire more minority teachers is coming under fire.

“It’s institutionalized racism,” conservative talk radio host Lars Larson told KOIN 6 News. “It’s saying we’re not going to hire the best teacher, we’re going to hire an acceptable teacher who has the right skin color.”

The school boar’ds idea is that, in the long run, the racial mix of the teaching staff should reflect the racial mix of the students. Of the 4,700 students in the Portland Public Schools system, 54% are white. Yet 83% of PPS teachers are white.

“We know — from what our students and families have told us, from research — that when our students see themselves in their school leaders, in the teachers that are leading the class, that often times they have a better chance of succeeding,” said PPS Spokesperson Rob Cowie.

On Monday night the Board of Education approved its new affirmative action plan. The plan is aimed at recruiting more teachers of color.

Portland’s school superintendent and her staff now will develop an official “affirmative action plan.” As part of that plan the district will set targets — versus  “quotas” — for the hiring and retention of “a more diverse employee base.” They’ll then decide reasonable targets for staffing over time.

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, in 2003 the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of affirmative action. However, it also ruled that race could not be the preeminent factor in such decisions.

Hours after the board’s decision, Larson was on the air in Portland attacking the school board’s decision. His viewpoint mirrors some of the national opposition to affirmative action plans.

A school district spokesperson insists they will continue to hire the best candidate. However, they’ll also be spending $25,000 to develop their minority recruitment plan.

Disclosure: KOIN 6 News is a media partner with the Portland Tribune, published by the Pamplin Media Group. Larson’s show airs on Pamplin Media’s KPAM Radio.

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