Saturday, April 15, 2006

Terry Porter can bring back Rip City

As the Oregonian reported today, I am involved with ex-Blazer Terry Porter and two other local guys in an effort to raise the capital necessary to buy the Trailblazers and keep the team in Portland.

We've been working on this deal for about six weeks, quietly putting the pieces in place until we could make the public announcement that we are seeking local investors.

The Blazers are too important to this town to just sit back and allow them to leave town. This city was once head-over-heels in love with the Blazers, and it can be again.

Who better to lead them back to their former glory than the one player who more than any other symbolizes what Portland fell in love with about the team during their heyday?

We have lined up $100 million in debt financing for the purchase, contingent upon raising significant local investor equity capital to round out the purchase. Terry will be in town next week to meet with prospective investors.

We met on Tuesday with NBA Commissioner David Stern to let him know our plans. It was clear to me at the meeting that Stern really wants a resolution to the Blazer problem, and that he would be perfectly happy to work with us provided we can raise the local investor equity necessary to buy the team.

The premise behind a Terry Porter led purchase is that Portland will once again support the Blazers if the players have good character, try hard every night, become part of the community, and respect the fans and the game. In any organization, the personnel tend to reflect the values and the character of its leader. Terry's team will reflect his character.

Terry will say to the people of Portland: "I pledge to put a team on the court that you can respect. We may not win right away - that will take time. But I will field a team that earns your trust. We will not ask the city for any public subsidy. The only public support we ask is to come back to the Rose Garden and support our team. Together we can BRING BACK RIP CITY!

We've put together a little web site where people can express their support of Terry Porter buying the team. Please give it a click and leave your name in support.

As the Oregonian reported, finding the local equity to make this happen is a difficult task. Terry is committed to doing everything he can to keep the Blazers in Portland. He's been personally calling several dozen prominent local people and businesses to ask them to attend a meeting next week where he will present the details of the proposal.

I've had occasion in my life to spend a lot of time around sports celebrities. I can say without exaggeration that Terry Porter is in a league of his own. He is humble, smart, charming, funny and willing to work hard. All the qualities that Portland came to know of him when he lived and played here -- they are absolutely true. They aren't just image - Terry Porter IS a class act in every sense of the word and I consider it to be a privilege to be working with him on this effort.

I'll post updates on our progress on this blog. Go to the website and join the effort.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A bias against academic rigor

I've written a lot about the mindset of the "progressive education philosophy."

Among the central tenets is that academic rigor is to be avoided because learning must be fun. Joe Terry Olsenon, a retired Portland teacher turned education blogger gives us a great example of this viewpoint in a recent blog post.

He laments the trend toward bringing academic rigor to kindergarten classes, saying:

"It's a sad day ... when academic rigor seeps into the kindergarten classroom, and the joy of learning seeps out."

There it is: academic rigor means the joy of learning is gone. That explains the progressive education establishment's longstanding attack on traditional academic content and delivery.

I would like Olsenon to visit one of my Arthur Academies, where we teach kindergartners to read by providing them a rigorous program in directly taught phonics. He would see very excited children in small groups, led by a teacher, happily participating in the day's lesson.

Each day they learn another precisely calibrated morsel of skill and knowledge that build upon each other to form the foundation of reading fluency. They are having fun.

They are succeeding, and learning to read. And they love it. Learning is fun for them.

It is a far cry from what Olsen obviously thinks of a kindergarten classroom that focuses on academics. He apparently thinks that children can only be having fun and enjoy learning when they are discovering things on their own through play and activities.

In other words, when they aren't being taught anything.

It is an interesting viewpoint, but sadly it is pervasive in the public school system and it has done great damage to our children.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ballot Measure 1 Report out

The legislative committee charged with fulfilling the requirements of Ballot Measure 1 (which requires the legislature to "adequately" fund schools or issue a report explaining why they couldn't) is now complete.

The verdict: they legislature fell a scant $1.8 billion dollars short of giving the schools what the Quality Education Commission says is necessary to provide sufficient alms to all the school employee unions.

That's $1.8 billion more than the $5.3 billion allocated to K-12! They want 33% more than the schools received.

And what would we get if we shorted every other part of the budget to cough up the dough? The Quality Education Commission says that if we fund the schools to that level, then 90% of Oregon students would meet state standards. OK, fine. Certainly they'd be willing to give us some guarantee, right? Maybe fire every administrator whose school didn't meet the 90% benchmark?

Uh, well, no. Just give us the money. No guarantee on outcome. That according to Lynn Lundquist, the architect of the entire scam. Quoting from the Oregonian:

Lundquist "agreed that outcomes are not guaranteed, but he said the commission's list of resources and practices needed in quality schools is a good one. And if there's no relation between spending and outcomes, he said, why not cut school spending in half?"

Basically: "Trust us. Give us the money, but don't expect us to be accountable for it. What do you think we are - public servants? You got it wrong, taxpayers ..... you serve us."

And I especially love the suggestion of cutting school spending in half - that is precisely what charter schools have basically done - and many of them are indeed meeting the 90% goal, operating on roughly half of the per-student all funds budget of the local school district.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Are they embarrassed? They should be.

I'm back from spring break, open the paper this morning to see the Oregonian continues to pretend it is a newspaper.

A front page article "analyzed" Portland School District spending, and found that: 1) employee benefits were higher than other districts, and 2) total spending was higher than similar sized districts.

"Wait," I thought..... haven't I seen or heard that somewhere before? Oh that's right! It is what I and others have been saying and writing for years on end! And further, it looked suspiciously like an article that featured about three weeks ago in the Portland Tribune.

For years on end we have been told by the Oregonian that PPS is underfunded. That we must raise taxes to save the district. That people like me who think they have enough money are not worthy of taking seriously.

Now, after the dinky little Tribune shows them up so badly, they cough up their own "analysis," and put it on the front page as if it is news?


It's a pattern we have seen from the Oregonian time and again. Just yesterday, a front page headline ran in the O that headlined: "Tram's price unrealistic from the get-go."

Oh really? You mean after months and months of Oregonian editorials saying the city must pay more for the cost overruns, after the blogosphere exposed the cost projection lies, the sham public process that ignored completely the neighborhood activists who directly challenged the cost estimates, the Oregonian now shouts a headline that the Tram's developers lied to everyone all along about what the thing would cost?

What is the Oregonian's part in perpretrating that lie? Where exactly do they take responsibility for pulling this expensive sham over on the public?

And why would they think they have any credibility remaining?