Hefty Gifts and Creating Inequities

Headline from the Lake Oswego Review: Kevin Love Offers a Hefty Gift to Lake Oswego High School

Lake Oswego is one of the most affluent communities in Oregon. They are not immune from poverty, with over two dozen homeless students in the 2015-2016 school year, but collectively, Lake Oswego enjoys a significantly larger median household income than the rest of the state.

Kevin Love is an Oregon celebrity. He went to Lake Oswego High School and is one of the best high school basketball players in Oregon history. I remember watching him play in the OSAA Championship tournament with my dad; he's always been an amazing and talented player. Now, he's a professional basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA. He's an NBA All Star, he has a championship ring, he won an Olympic gold medal -- the list goes on from there, but you get the idea. He made it big. He's the real deal.

One thing I admire and respect about Kevin Love is that he didn't forget where he came from.

Last week, it was announced that Love would be donating $200,000 worth of strength training equipment for the Lake Oswego High School weight room. The LOHS Athletics Director gave shining praise, and the administration and school board all agreed to accept the donation from Love -- and allocate an undetermined amount of money to purchasing comparable equipment at Lakeridge High School, the other LOSD high school, in order to avoid violating district policy on accepting donations that create inequities "between buildings or programs, among or within schools."

That's a good policy. I just wish it applied to all the districts in Oregon.

Maybe you can see where I'm going with this.

Nestled in the middle of the article is an important sentence: "[The Lake Oswego High School Athletics Director] said the school's current equipment is sufficient but that the new equipment would be a welcome addition."


There are two ways to look at this; on the one hand, this is very much a "the rich get richer" situation. If you were to line up all the high schools in Oregon by how badly each needs new weight training equipment, I don't think Lake Oswego would be anywhere near the top of that list. I can't help but think how big of an event this would have been for a school in Portland Public Schools, or a rural school, with limited resources and aging facilities, to receive a big donation like this from a real celebrity like Kevin Love. There are plenty of schools who would not describe their equipment as "sufficient." This generous, well-intentioned donation is a tiny metaphor for the opportunity gap in public education. It's a huge problem.

On the other hand, none of this is Kevin Love's fault. It's not Lake Oswego's fault, either. Many wealthy, successful people don't use their means to give back to their alma mater. Kevin Love did, and he should be commended for that. Lake Oswego School District is doing the right thing, trying to provide the best educational opportunities possible for their kids. Who could blame them for that? 

But if the fault doesn't belong to a specific person or district, maybe the fault belongs to all of us. Maybe we're all responsible for building a more equitable education system -- and I'm not just talking about academics. Sports and extracurriculars are a big deal to students, but not often discussed in conversations about education policy.

Somehow, we've got to figure out how to make sure the kids at Roosevelt High School and Bandon High School and David Douglas High School and Rogue River High School get sufficient -- if not new -- weight training equipment, too. And soccer goals, volleyball uniforms, softball gear, cameras for yearbook, and supplies for the student council. Every kid at every school should have access to that stuff. You would want your kid to have access to it, wouldn't you?