Deepening Belonging in Beaverton
FROM THE 2020 TOP REPORT “CORNERSTONES: ECONOMIC MOBILITY AND BELONGING IN OREGON”
Beaverton is a diverse, growing city with roughly 97,000 residents. Located just 7 miles west of Portland, the city is home to global companies like Nike and Tektronix.
It is the second-largest of 13 incorporated cities in Washington County, which is often referred to as the economic engine of the state. At the same time, it’s a short drive to more rural areas of Washington County, and the city is still small enough that newcomers can call the mayor and get a personal welcome.
Beaverton has some of the highest-opportunity neighborhoods in the state for children overall and for Latino children in particular. Low-income children who grew up in the West Beaverton and Highland neighborhoods earn an average of $39,503 annually as adults. Compared to the other communities identified by Opportunity Insights (OI), West Beaverton and Highland have some of the highest mean incomes at $103,368 and $91,836 respectively, and some of the lowest poverty rates over time.
In 2000, when the OI cohort was entering the labor market, the employment rate was around 68% in the two neighborhoods compared to 61% statewide (OI, 2018). The neighborhoods also had the highest test score measure (an approximation used for school quality) among the OI communities. Latino children who grew up in low-income families in the Central Beaverton and Vose neighborhoods earn around $35,000 annually, which places them in the top half of Latino children nationally within OI’s dataset.
Central Beaverton contains the city’s downtown core and has been a recent site of redevelopment and revitalization. It’s home to City Hall, new multifamily developments, Beaverton City Library and Beaverton Farmers Market (which is the largest in the state).
The Vose neighborhood is one of the most diverse but also one of the poorest areas of the city. Its residents appreciate the diversity of people and businesses, and rents have stayed lower than in most Beaverton neighborhoods. Allen Boulevard, the neighborhood’s commercial core, has a variety of Latino, Korean and Middle Eastern restaurants and shops. People who live and work in the neighborhood also appreciate the easy access to downtown and the variety of nearby parks (City of Beaverton, 2019).
Children in OI’s dataset who grew up in these four neighborhoods seemed to benefit from economically integrated communities, strong employment rates and quality schools. While many of these factors remain in force today, Beaverton is trying to preserve and expand opportunity as it grows to ensure a thriving future for its richly diverse communities.
QUALITY SCHOOLS ARE BOLSTERED BY STUDENT SUPPORTS
Students attending schools in Beaverton’s high-opportunity neighborhoods have better than average completion and college-going rates. Most students living in the four neighborhoods attend Southridge or Beaverton High School, both of which have higher than average on-time graduation and college-going rates compared to the state.1 While graduation rates are lower across the board for economically disadvantaged students and students of color, the Southridge and Beaverton rates remain slightly above the state averages for these student groups.2
Beaverton School District employs graduation mentors to support students at risk of not graduating. One such mentor is Jodi Monroy, who works primarily with students at Beaverton High School. One of the students she mentors is undocumented; he explains that his status made it challenging for him to open up to most adults, but not to Jodi: “Everything I tell her, she’s lived through it, and she already has experience in some of the things, which opens my reality of seeing things. It’s a broader view of stuff. It just makes me think a lot, and it makes me step back and see what the bigger picture really is.”
Three of the four elementary schools in the neighborhoods — Fir Grove, Chehalem and Raleigh Park— have average or better class sizes and test scores.3 Vose Elementary School students also have average or better test scores and high progress year to year, but class sizes are slightly larger than average with a median class size of 26.4 Nearly 4 in 5 students at Vose are people of color, and 7 in 10 are Latino.5 More than 3 in 4 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, and 3 in 5 are English learners.6 Vose Elementary School is also home to an in-demand dual immersion program. Starting in kindergarten, 90% of instruction is in Spanish with the remainder in English. By fifth grade, the proportion evens out to 50% of instruction in each language.
According to Don Grotting, superintendent of Beaverton School District, this kind of dual immersion program has benefits for English and Spanish-speaking students. It places students who speak Spanish as a first language into leadership roles, turning what may be perceived as a deficit in other schools or contexts into a strength.
A study of similar programs in the Portland Public Schools district found that students in dual immersion programs outperform their peers in English reading skills by a full year’s worth of learning by the end of middle school (Steele, et al., 2017). Vose Elementary students can continue to receive dual-language instruction at Whitford Middle School and Beaverton or Southridge High School.
Beaverton School District’s broad community support helps it attract additional resources. In 2018, 70% of voters approved a levy to support 300 teachers and maintain class sizes (Hammond, 2018). This type of local option levy allows cities to collect more than they would through the permanent property tax rate and is one of the few revenue-raising options available to Oregon school districts.
Residents and local businesses also contribute to schools through foundations. As an example, the independent nonprofit Beaverton High School Success Fund has raised $5 million over the past six years (Milshtein, 2019). This amount is remarkable given that Beaverton Education Foundation, which benefits all 53 district schools, has invested just over $4 million since 1988 (Milshtein, 2019). Most of the funds raised for Beaverton High School were contributed by successful alumni. The school used the money to make various capital improvements, buy equipment to enhance learning, increase funding for college scholarships and provide field trips for ninth and 10th graders to visit local businesses or colleges (Milshtein, 2019).
BEAVERTON WELCOMES YOU
Belonging and feeling valued in one’s community are critical components of mobility. Compared to other Oregon counties, Washington County has the state’s lowest social capital index ranking (see Figure 6, page 17).
In recent years, the city of Beaverton has worked to strengthen social ties among its residents — especially immigrants, refugees and communities of color. Roughly 1 in 5 Beaverton residents was born outside the United States, compared to fewer than 1 in 10 Oregonians.7 In addition, 1 in 3 Central and East Beaverton residents are people of color, as are 1 in 2 West Beaverton and Aloha residents (Coalition of Communities of Color, 2018).
“My family and I have been grateful that Beaverton is so welcoming. People are friendly and kind. They are open to foreigners like us. But we know there is still work to do.”
BOLD PROGRAM PARTICIPANT
QUOTED IN BEAVERTON VALLEY TIMES
Over the past decade, the city of Beaverton has put the necessary infrastructure in place to ensure that it serves all residents. It started to focus on cultural inclusion in 2009 when it established a Diversity Task Force, and it began to formalize this work in 2012 when a permanent outreach position for cultural inclusion was created in the mayor’s office. The 13-member Diversity Advisory Board (DAB) was established in 2013. In 2015, Beaverton adopted its first diversity, equity and inclusion plan, which was drafted by the DAB. This plan launched a host of activities in the areas of language access, economic opportunity, family support, public safety, infrastructure and livability, health and wellness, and city practices.
In a national climate that has fueled fear and anxiety among immigrants and refugees, the city of Beaverton has demonstrated its commitment to welcoming newcomers as well as foreign-born residents who have lived in the city for decades. In 2015, Beaverton joined the national Welcoming Cities and Counties Initiative and was declared a Welcoming City. Through the mayor’s office, the Welcoming Beaverton initiative fosters the linguistic, cultural and economic integration of immigrants.
Each year in September, the city hosts Welcoming Week, which is a series of events geared toward building bridges between immigrants, refugees and U.S.-born residents. Past years have featured a variety of community-led events supported by small grants from the city, including a Welcoming Beaverton potluck, a concert showcasing traditional Korean and Arabic music, and “A Night with Somalis” fashion show.
In 2017, the initiative expanded to include community partners like Beaverton School District, Beaverton Area Chamber of Commerce, Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District and a variety of nonprofits who committed to working together to promote immigrant welcoming and integration. Partners meet quarterly to learn from each other and identify opportunities for collaboration.
The city has taken a variety of steps to make information available to immigrants and refugees, including creating a “New Americans Corner” at the public library to promote integration and provide resources on naturalization. The library also held an information session when the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was announced. In addition, two dedicated volunteers put together a guide for newcomers called Welcome to Beaverton, which the city prints and promotes.
Last, the city of Beaverton is working to provide opportunities for leadership development and civic participation. The Beaverton Organizing and Leadership Development (BOLD) training program began in 2012 as a partnership between the city and the Center for Intercultural Organizing (now Unite Oregon). The program is free and is geared toward emerging leaders who are immigrants, refugees and people of color. The three-day workshops cover local government and opportunities for engagement, community organizing and advocacy, as well as priority policy topics for participants. Nearly 100 people have graduated from the program, and those graduates have served on at least eight of the city’s advisory boards and commissions. The National League of Cities and the Welcoming Cities and Counties Initiative have recognized the BOLD program as an innovative approach to engagement, and in 2016, the Cascade Chapter of the International Association for Public Participation gave the program its best-practices award for public involvement.
Increased participation in boards and commissions means that more perspectives are included in decision-making, but work remains to be done. Creating a seat at the table for immigrants, refugees and communities of color does not ensure that the table is welcoming, and civic leadership in government, business and other sectors does not yet reflect the diversity of Beaverton’s population.
The city of Beaverton continues to find ways to incorporate the perspectives of communities of color in its work. It was the first city to support the landmark study Leading with Race, a report produced by the Coalition of Communities of Color that entailed more than two years of deeply engaging people of color in Washington County in collecting and interpreting data. The city of Beaverton hosted the report’s release event, and the findings have informed the city’s newest equity, diversity and inclusion plan.
Although Beaverton is striving to be a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees, data suggests that they face other hurdles when it comes to economic mobility. U.S.-born Beaverton residents annually earn an average of $10,000 more than their foreign-born neighbors despite the fact that both groups have similar employment rates of around 66%.8 Beaverton residents born outside the United States are also more likely to live in poverty. About 17% of foreign-born residents live in poverty, compared to 11% of their U.S.-born neighbors.9
In addition, more than 1 in 4 families with children where the head of household was born outside the United States live in poverty, compared to fewer 33 than 1 in 10 of U.S.-born families with children.10 The DAB has identified foreign credentialing— the idea that education and work experience from another country are not transferable to the United States — as one contributing factor. Others in the community agree and feel that many immigrants and refugees are overqualified for the work they do.
RISING COSTS THREATEN BEAVERTON’S DIVERSITY
Beaverton was once seen as an affordable alternative to living in Portland, but the cost of housing is rising. Median rents increased by 24% between 2010 and 2018, and median home values increased by 37%.11 Half of all renters pay 30% or more of their monthly income in housing costs. As a result, there are signs that low-income residents and communities of color are leaving.
Beaverton School District recently proposed $35 million in budget cuts to make up for a deficit attributed in part to declining enrollment for students in poverty and English language learners, two student populations that make schools eligible for federal education funds (Miller, 2019).
Rising housing costs have been cited as a potential reason for this decline. Concurrently, the district has the state’s highest number of homeless students: 1,971 students live on the street, in shelters, in temporary housing or doubled up with other families.12
Beyond the school district, homelessness and housing have become citywide priorities. In a recent city survey, 1 in 5 residents identified poverty/ homelessness as the most important issue facing the community, and more than 1 in 3 said that increasing housing availability should be a top priority (Probolsky Research, 2019).
“I don’t think people have a sense of just how terrified some of our communities are. And I don’t think people realize just how many undocumented individuals and mixed-status families there are, and how petrified they are every day.”
CHAIR, TUAL ATIN HILLS PARKS & RECREATION DISTRICT BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Voice of Beaverton, a 2018 project of the DAB, documents the housing experiences of local residents from a variety of backgrounds. One of the stories is about Cheery, a 24-year-old caregiver who lives in an apartment with her husband and their two young children. Her family spends 70% of their monthly income on housing costs. They’ve lived in the same apartment since 2014. Since then, their rent has risen almost 15%. Cheery says, “Our wage is not keeping up with the cost of living, especially with two young children.”
There have been a few recent affordable housing developments in Central Beaverton, which is one of the high-opportunity communities for Latino children. The Barcelona opened in 2015 with 47 affordable units. Built in 2017, Bridge Meadows is an intergenerational housing community with 41 units for seniors and low-income foster families. Also, REACH Community Development is planning to build a 54-unit affordable housing project in the same neighborhood; it is slated to open in spring 2021.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
As Beaverton has grown, its high-opportunity neighborhoods have remained economically integrated with solid employment rates and quality schools. As growth continues, the city of Beaverton, nonprofits, schools and community members are working to build a community where all residents belong and are respected.
“The reasons we feel committed to building sanctuary in our cities, county and beyond are numerous. Our individual and community safety depend on it. Our demographics demand it. Our desire to be a healthy, thriving community with a strong future leads us to it.”
BEAVERTON DIVERSIT Y ADVISORY BOARD, HUM AN RIGHT S ADVISORY COMMISSION , & THE HUM AN RIGHTS COUNCIL OF WASHINGTON COUNTY
REAFFIRMING OUR COMMITMENT TO SANCTUARY & WELCOMING
This story is one part of our 2020 TOP Report, “Cornerstones: Economic Mobility and Belonging in Oregon” part of series of six reports tracking economic, social and environmental progress in Oregon. View the full report.
- Oregon Department of Education. (2019). 2018–2019 report cards for Beaverton and Southridge high schools.
- Oregon Department of Education. (2019). 2018–2019 report cards for Chehalem, Fir Grove, Raleigh Park, and Vose elementary schools.
- Oregon Department of Education. 2018–2019 report card for Vose Elementary School.
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2014–2018). American Community Survey 5-year estimates: Table S0501, selected characteristics of the native and foreign-born populations.
- U.S. Census Bureau. (2014–2018) American Community Survey 5-year estimates: Table DP04, selected housing characteristics.
- Oregon Department of Education. (2019). K-12 homeless student totals by district and living situation 18–19.