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Portland "YES" Schools: Get out the vote!

Bryn is our guest blogger on this very special post about getting out the vote. He's a parent just like many of us who care about the future of our schools.


So this May 17th a very important election is taking place. This vote could impact Portland for years to come. Since it is a spring election in an off year very little attention is being paid to this crucial decision involving two ballot measures, they are:

  • Measure 26-121 - School Bond designed to rebuild and improve every school within PPS Measure 26-122 - Levy to save teaching jobs.

Portlanders For Schools is running a grass roots campaign trying to get as many school supporters aware of these measures. Many schools in Portland are phonebanking, canvassing and getting the word out on the playground. If these bills are going to pass it will be because neighbor is talking to neighbor and friend talking to friend. In these times of strained relations in Washington D.C. many people vote no on anything tax related but these bills will make a difference in our children's lives.

My daughter goes to Beach School built in 1928. If this bond passes Beach will get a covered playground, better ADA access, more secure entrance and a natural gas heating system to replace the antiquated boiler. The local North Portland High Schools Jefferson(1909) and Roosevelt(1921) are both scheduled to be rebuilt. I love my school and I love my neighborhood so I feel strongly that this is an investment in my community. This will make a measurable impact in the lives of all Portlanders.

I was a little apprehensive to make the calls but it turned into a really fun night. The vibe in the room is just great with kids playing/watching tv and parents trying to make a difference for something they believe in.

I am currently asking our school community what more can they do to help. What can you do? Phone banking is happening every night until the ballots are turned in. Canvassing will be happening every Saturday until the election. Please contact your school captain or http://portlandersforschools.org/ to learn more.

I have three daughters, 8, 4, and 14 months, that I want to be able to look my kids in the eye and know that I did everything I could to support these measures.



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Politifact demonstrated that this money will benefit a very small percentage of PPS students. Why not make sure all schools meet basic seismic standards and address deferred maintenance across the board instead of pouring huge amounts into just a few buildings? I honestly don't understand especially in this economy when people are so stretched?

The same could be said for PPS in general, Anon. These levies are certainly are a hard sell out in neighborhoods like Lents where the district elected to close the newest high school in its portfolio, and disburse the kids to separate, older school buildings far from their homes.

It's a hard sell to lower income homeowners who may already be paying tuition and/or higher transportation costs because PPS has failed their kids of color, or special needs kids in addition to school taxes that are already paid each year.

All this to say, every parent is not necessarily for these measures. And to give a little insight on why we may not be. . .. . . .

Can one vote to support the levy but not the bond?

Anon -- The bond will make significant improvements to every single school -- all 85 of them. Nine, the ones in the worst condition, will get rebuilt, while the rest will get rebuilt if voters renew the bond in five years. The high schools currently slated for rebuilds -- Jefferson, Roosevelt and Cleveland -- are simply stacks of bricks, and serve thousands of kids -- rebuilding them now will ensure a HUGE portion of the school population is safer.

And seismic upgrades are not the only safety issue currently facing our kids. Science labs with only sink = little access to eye washes. No security systems = anybody can enter our school buildings. Bad roofs = ceiling tiles falling on our kids. Bad boilers (so old parts have to be made) = serious fire hazards. Old stage rigging = the potential for them to crash down.

The levies and the bond will significantly reshape our schools, provide for up to 7,000 jobs, and revitalize our city. I'm proud to be voting for both.

And to further clarify, those safety issues will be addressed in every school, immediately.

My son's school was built in 1915. I can't wait for both the bond and levy to pass, and will be working hard to make sure they do. Even though our school isn't on the rebuild list, it will get some sorely needed upgrades, like updates to our science classes, so our kids can all do hands-on projects (the most effective way to learn science), a covered play area, so our kids don't have to spend recesses indoors, away from the rain, and many other improvements. We've been disinvesting in our kids long enough, and, even though our family has struggled in this economy, we'll be voting yes for both measures.

The bulk of the 548 million dollars would go to three high schools that serve 20 % of PPS. That doesn't sound like a good investment to me especially since all the schools in this district are in need of serious repair and upgrade just to be adequate and safe. If they can convince people in this economy to pass a bond of this magnitude, we should expect a better and more equitable return on investment.

We absolutely need to pass the bond measure for our children's safety and opportunity. Portland is the only district in the region without a bond measure. Without the basic classroom and technology updates as well as functioning science labs our children will not be able to stay competitive with neighboring districts. And without the basic fixes of the leaky roofs, crumbling buildings, asbestos pipes and fire hazard boilers our children's safety is at risk. We cannot wait for another decade to pass a bond, we need to vote yes for our schools on May 17th. We would not allow these conditions to exist in our homes...why is it OK to have them exist in our schools where our kids spend the bulk of their time.

I agree Kathy both of my children's schools are in serious need of upgrades but will be getting nothing close to what they need even if this passes. Imagine what that money could do if it was spread more evenly considering the overwhelming need as opposed to concentrated at three schools.

Anon -- every school *will* be getting upgrades and serious repairs, immediately. New boilers, new security systems, new stage rigging, new roofs where needed, new science labs, new ADA accessibility, and more. Right away, in every one of the 85 schools.

Here is the link to the 31 page document that details the extent of this work.


Every other district around us has a measure like this, with the cost of this one smack dab in the middle. It's a great investment that other communities around us have already made -- it's time we did so, too.

Mama to two--
Yes, the bond measure and the operating levy are completely separate on the ballot. You can vote yes on one and no on the other if that is the choice you would like to make.

I am supporting the operating levy wholeheartedly, but I admit it's harder to be enthusiastic about the bond measure. At the same time, I'd like people to make their decisions based on clear thinking and real information. I think it's disingenuous to complain that the bulk of the money would go to rebuilding "only" three high schools that serve "only" 20% of PPS's population. Twenty percent is a minority of the students, yes. But how should this be different? Should we ignore the larger problems at those buildings in order to spread the money around more evenly? That does not seem equitable to me. Should we have a larger bond measure so that all of the high schools can be rebuilt, thereby affected almost all PPS students? That does not seem feasible to me.

I agree that ALL schools should receive seismic upgrades (some schools were already done under previous bond measures). And I'd tweak things in other ways, too, if I had the opportunity. But ALL students will see improvements in their school buildings, not just those attending the schools slated for rebuilds.

I also would like to make the point that many of the repairs that would be financed by the bond measure are absolutely necessary from a health and safety standpoint, as well as from an efficiency and educational perspective. If we do not pass a bond measure to fund these repairs, they will have to be paid for out of the operating budget.

I have good reason to see PPS as a collection of very human individuals (human = flawed) run by a volunteer board. But I don't think they're any worse that any of the surrounding districts. Do I trust PPS less than Gresham-Barlow? Less than Lake Oswego? Less than Hillsboro? Nope. If those districts can adequately manage bond measure funds to benefit their educational communities, then I think PPS can probably handle it, too.

I have a problem with the levy. Funding operating cost with a 5 year levy is just not right. Operating cost must be covered by the PPS general fund. Levies are for special or unusual circumstances, like seismic upgrades. It just isn't right to levy extra money for operating expenses because operating costs don't go away after 5 years. Besides, who can guarantee this will truly be just a 5 year levy? The previous 5 year levy has not ran out yet, and PPS is already asking for a new one!! After two 5 year levies, PPS will likely say to the voters: "Look, we had this money for the last 10 years, we simply can't go without it now". And this is how temporary increases become permanent.

On the other hand, I do support the infrastructure bond. And I had to laugh when I read the Oregonian's endorsement. Apparently the Oregonian staff think that buildings maintenance should have been planned by putting aside money from the operating budget,(so they are against this measure) but they decided that the operating budget is not sufficient to cover the basic operating costs therefore they are pro the levy. This endorsement just doesn't make sense. How can we not have enough to cover operating expenses and yet find money in the operating budget to set aside for maintenance??

AJ -- Because of the tax structure (thanks to the 1990's Measure 5), levies are the only way local districts can raise funds to pay for many local costs. It isn't right, I absolutely and completely agree, but it's the system we have right now.

And, the levy will save hundreds of jobs right in our schools.

How about a sales tax to support schools and roads? A constant influx of funds rather than the intermittent stop gaps we always seem to be voting for.

Measure 5 seems to make some sense to me. Why should property taxes be 15 % higher from one year to another just because real estate market went up? That doesn't mean schools need 15% more to maintain current level of services and it doesn't mean residents have 15% more in their pockets to pay higher taxes. Conversely, when the market goes down by 10%, the schools shouldn't be getting 10% less in taxes, because their needs are similar as in prior year.

Now, the fact that Measure 5 first rolled back taxes is certainly difficult for the schools. But the predictability of the tax revenue should be a plus.

There some measures in the legislature to tinker with Measure 5 and to provide for more stability. As it is now, unemployment figures, rather than property values, have the same effect that you're talking about -- up and down and all around. I just wish the changes would happen in time. As it stands now, if the budget passes without the levy, our schools will lose hundreds of teaching positions in just a few of months.

woops...there "are" some measures.

I would vote "Yes" for sales tax. This will allow us to tax out of state visitors, not just ourselves. Additionally, most of us can choose to send a bit more or less and control how much sales tax we are wiling to pay. Of course I assume basics such as food, medication and housing would be exempt.

I meant to say "spend" not "send". "We can choose to spend more or less."

Yes, there is a big price tag for three schools. Please realize this is phase 1 in a 15-20 year vision of rebuilding many of the Portland Public Schools. It is not possible to rebuild all right now. As as other people have mentioned all schools will receive benefit from the passage of the bond.

If you would like to learn more about this issue directly from Carole Smith please attend the meeting tomorrow night.

Carole Smith,Superintendent, Portland Public Schools:
Wednesday, April 27 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM
Blanchard Education Service Center
501 N. Dixon Street.

J, Perhaps another way of looking at it is not that I'm being " disingenuous" but practical. Considering the state of the economy and people's reluctance to vote for such bonds, perhaps spending the money where it will serve the most students and do the most good makes better sense. The fact that so many people have reacted negatively to the amount and its intended distribution combined with their lack of faith in PPS may prove to be the bonds undoing. A more intelligent plan with a better return on investment might have insured that our kids could at least count on the upgrades they need to be safe.

I'm so glad this topic is being discussed here! While I have my PPS criticisms (I'm sure we all do!), I'm voting YES for both of these measures. Heck, I've been phone banking, canvassing and even talking on the radio (http://www.kink.fm/PPS-Bond-Measures/9683633) to make sure they pass. It's sad that we need the op levy, but in the critical absence of state funding, we need it desperately. We already have one (it'll expire in 2012), this is a mere extension so we don't lose the teaching staff that the current one pays for (this new one is a little higher because the state raised the cap - wonder why?!). I am pleased that the PPS school board is doing long-range facilities maintenance/improvement planning. Our schools need it, and they need it ASAP. Is this plan perfect? Probably not. But it's a terrific start and really, can you imagine a plan that is perfect for all of us Portlanders? PPS families and others? I don't believe we can wait until that happens, bc I bet the buildings would crumble first. The real issue with Measure 5 wasn't the value cap, IMO, it was the redistribution of local funds to other parts of the state. Which greatly helped them (prob a good thing), but significantly reduced what we have to work with at PPS. And our costs didn't go down. At our school, Buckman, we've already lost our P/T reading and writing supports (last year) and dedicated, generous, but untrained parents are filling in, and if we lose any more staff our 20-year-old arts focus program won't continue, because our arts staff are the only ones left to cut. My son's 2nd-grade class is 27 kids with 1 teacher. Hardly ideal. We can do better and I see these 2 fundraising measures as a big step in the right direction. For those who say now isn't a good time, there's never a good time to raise taxes in the U.S., especially in this political climate. Also, today is the very last day to register to vote in the May 17 election, so if you're not yet registered, you can do it online here: http://www.sos.state.or.us/elections/. Thanks again for raising this - the health of our public schools is so important to so many aspects of life in Portland - way beyond our kids' education!

Also, it'd be great if people would post under their real names, rather than Anon. We all likely know each other, might as well be honest here.

When PPS is willing to change its infrastructure that supports the demise of the integrity of the neighborhood school, I might be more inclined to support the financial needs of the district. At this point, all I see is a district that wants more and more of my money while they allow my neighborhood school to crumble around me by allowing families with resources to flee, taking their dollars with them, and leaving the rest of us to scrape by.

I am personally voting yes for both of these but think there is a split vote among the adults in our household.

I have to admit that I have a problem with the City of Portland budgeting $65 million over the next 5 years to upgrade the Pearl District post office when our schools are in such bad shape. sigh...

But alas, I don't have a better solution for the schools, so I'll vote yes on the bond and levy.

I post under Anon since I'm a parent in a very judgmental community where it's been made clear that my opinions on this topic are not welcomed. I do so to protect my children since unfortunately my opinions can impact them. Portland likes to pretend that it is a place where that kind of thing doesn't happen but unfortunately I've seen it enough times to know that it does.

Most folks who know me from uMs, know my nom de plume on uMs. Lisa, I have to respectfully disagree with you that all of a sudden on this heated political issue that people need to suddenly post under their "real names". I understand Anon's concern about her children, my child has been impacted by her mom's strong opinions and people can be quite vicious IRL. Mix up mamas, politics and emotions=volatile mix.

I also think that the opinions here will be swayed a certain way as no one here batted an eye as the closure of Marshall and how it was done. This is continuation of the split we sometimes have around here, whether it's drive/bike, socio-economic status, close-in PDX/suburbs/East County. Opinions would vary, I guess from Lents Commons or Yo' Mama's Coffeehouse to Cup and Saucer or Fresh Pot.

It may not be correct to assume that someone is against this because they are misinformed. Many folks do not trust the Superintendent or anything that comes "straight from her mouth". Especially those historically disenfranchised communities that ALWAYS manage to get the short end no matter what promises are made.

anon2, while City's budget is not related to PPS, I understand where you are coming from. However, if I was to make a similar argument, I would say, stop wasting my taxes on wars and start supporting public education in the US.

I feel over a barrel on this one. I suppose I will vote for them both, but I do have some concerns about inequity in the district, particularly in difficult times. Lisa, you bring up the idea of Buckman's art program being cut, and others bring up the idea that the bond will only benefit a small percentage of the students. Maybe right now we need to be more mindful of spreading the money over the most students possible. It seems to me that right now might not be the time to be offering magnets, immersions, and specialized programs that benefit only some when that money might be better spent strengthening and equalizing core programs across the city. As sad as I am that the district had to close a high school, if that means every other school can offer a strong core program to all, I have to support the tough decision that went into it. I'd like to see more of that happening across all grades. We might not need so much more money after we make some tough funding choices.

My children should not have to suffer for the opinions of their mum. And I think the vitriol some of us experienced on the "your little kid looks unsafe to me on that bike" thread proves it.

I'm on the fence about the levy and bond because I'm not certain they solve the shortages long term. The link above did not work for me... can someone explain where the money comes from and how long it will last? Or will we be back at the polls again next year for the same kind of thing?

My kids are a junior and a freshman at one of the newer schools.. the monies going to their school is much less than some on the list.. but I do think improving schools all around Portland helps everyone.

Trillium mum, the money will come from property taxes of all residents from the PPS boundaries.
How long will it last? I am assuming you are referring to the levy. It will last 5 years. However, PPS did not explain what they expect to do after the 5 years, so yes, we may be back at the polls again in 5 years. Or in less than 5 years, as this levy is being renewed despite the fact that the old 5 year levy has not yet expired.

Trillium mum - you're right, they don't solve long term funding problems. That is something the state is going to have to take up. Most of the operating fund for Oregon comes from personal income taxes, and with this economy, we're in trouble. The school system is doing what it can with the tools it has to get funding. Bonds and levies come from an increase in our property taxes, and are temporary measures. They are both designed to go on for 5 years, at which point, we can vote on another bond and another levy, but we won't be at the polls again next year. By law, they have to describe what the funds will be used for, and they will be audited yearly by an independent group, to ensure that's what's happening. If I had my way, we would have an overhaul of our tax structure in Oregon - and I would also vote for a sales tax, but unfortunately, that has been trounced at the ballot box 9 times now. That said, I don't feel right about making our kids pay to make a point to adults, so I'll do what it takes to help- and that includes safer buildings with more efficient boilers to heat the places, and it also means a levy so they don't have to lay off even more teachers than if the levy passes.

As for the bond, it will last for five years, at which point, if voters feel that their support has been well spent, they can renew it every five years for a total of 30 years. If it's renewed, will provide for all, each and every one, of Portland's schools to be rebuilt.

And the levy is an on-going measure -- legally, PPS is not allowed to ask for more than 5 years at a time, otherwise it might be nice to make it permanent -- considering many other similar jurisdictions around the country pay more for their schools with regard to per capita taxes, it would be nice to put our system on par...

I am a PPS teacher in a title one (high poverty) school with a child slated to start Kindergarten next year in a PPS title one school. One thing we have always had in the title one schools is small class sizes. This is the first year it sounds like we won't be able to use our title one funds for class size reduction and we are looking at class size going up from 20 to 30, and if the levy doesn't pass more like 35. So if you have an issue with the lottery system and how it affects high poverty schools, just know that this levy will have a big impact on these same schools. ( I have no idea how big classes would get in wealthier neighborhoods which already have large classes.) I personally would love to have the funding problems solved long term, but I don't see how making the kids who are in school in the meantime suffer will solve anything.

I'm not excited about the bond (my kids' school is getting the minimal upgrades), but I'll vote for both because education isn't supported enough here, and if this is what the school district says it needs, I will support that.

But I'd more excited for more PE, more art, longer recess, longer school day, more classes, etc. It's terrible that even with this levy there will be cuts--we'll be paying so much and watching our kids' schools decline further.

Both of these bonds feel like Bandaids trying to cover massive head injuries. Until the basics of education and safety can be met in every PPS classroom, extras like language immersion, arts magnets, etc. should not even be part of the equation. Clearly there are states that have figured out public education and are doing it well. Why we are so mixed up still in 2011 is completely baffling.

Talking about unnecessary extras - How about the recently launched parent academy? It is a "nice to have" category of services and we are in a budget cycle that should not include any "nice to haves".

And how can they spend tens of millions doing a to the studs remodel of Jefferson so that it can actually house fewer students? We're talking a few hundred. There are crumbling high schools filled past capacity that won't even get looked at for five or ten years. It makes absolutely no fiscal sense. Have some of you seen the state of these high schools? Perhaps upgrades to improve quality of life at all high schools makes more sense than total remodels at a few with the hope and promise that ours might get done in ten years! After Linoln, and Grant and...By then the current leadership will have moved on and those"promises" long forgotten.

Anon about parent academy--

Boy, was I ticked when they rolled that out at the same time as dire warnings about budget cuts. Turns out the parent academy is paid for entirely with grants, so it's not stealing money from more immediate educational needs.

As a former suburban public school teacher who has children in PPS, I invite you all who do not support the bond/levy to take a drive out to the 'burbs and check out the schools. Our Portland children deserve the same learning environment children in the Clackamas, Beaverton and L.O. have.
Let's stop and just think about what is best for our children. Tiles nearly falling on their heads, unsafe science labs, ancient boilers.... we need to get these buildings up to the same standards as suburban schools.


Tired mom,

Jefferson will be turned into a Middle College program, which all of the major jurisdictions around us have -- we're the only one of significant size in Oregon that doesn't have one. It will accomodate up to 700 students from all over the district (already, enrollment at Jeff is way up because of the program). It will allow high school students to go across the street to PCC to allow them to either graduate from high school with an associates degree in a vocation, or go onto college as a junior. It will show kids that they can go to college, save their families a great deal of money, and allow any student to get a job immediately upon graduation.

It will be a tremendous program, and an updated building will ensure its success.

I will have two kids in the Middle College program at Jefferson next year. Kristen is right, enrollment is way up. Finally Jeff is getting a chance to succeed. But it can't happen when the building is almost falling down.

Eastsider is also correct. I volunteered in a program that placed me in many local schools. There is something very wrong with our city, that kids who live in Lake O, or get into Wilson, or even attend elementary in a well-supported school like Alameda, get so much more than kids who live in areas like mine. It is simply unacceptable that my kids attend schools where entire hallways are closed, and ceilings are falling down in class. How we can expect such a school to draw kids?

I find it bizarre that the district neglects Jefferson and other largely minority schools for decades, and then when a measure is suggested to remedy this inequity, the supporters are accused of somehow discriminating against better-supported schools.

Every building in this district is almost falling down if you haven't noticed; yours is no exception. There are other schools that have minority, poor and struggling students as well that won't see much help for quite a long time and those kids will continue to go to school in unsafe, substandard, neglected buildings with falling tiles, broken bathrooms, mold, etc. I guess as long as a few schools are super shiney new the fact that the rest of the kids remain in squalor is unimportant. The sad part is the way this whole thing has played means it probably won't pass and so kids won't even end up getting the basics they need. I chalk it up to poor leadership.

If we rebuilt every school, right now, it would cost tax payers an average of $1,800 a year for five years, instead of $300 over the course of 30. Which works for families?

The falling tiles, the mold, etc., will get fixed, in the meantime, for the 74 schools aren't immediately getting rebuilt. They will, but only if it passes. If it doesn't pass, NOTHING happens.

And the schools chosen for rebuilds are the ones in the worst shape. Period. Jeff is among those. So, Jeff gets rebuilt. The rest (Grant, Lincoln and more) will also get rebuilt, but later. It's a process.

Did you ever check the pps statistics on school funding per student and the schools budget rank, where 1 is the highest (most money) and 27 is the lowest? The schools you call neglected actually get much more money per student than the schools you consider better supported. Basically the schools with poor results get more money, but... they still have poor results. This obviously shows money in schools does not guarantee student success. Many factors, including parents' support, help students achieve. I will say it again, it is not all about money, as pps would like us to believe right now.
Here are the numbers. For some reason this information is not available for high schools (or maybe I don't know how to find it).

Alameda budget - rank 21
Chief Joseph - rank 14
King - rank 3 (means more money per student than Chief Joseph and Alameda)

Budget ranking

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at dollars per student at specific schools . . .

I believe that these numbers include all funds spent at those schools. So foundation dollars from private fundraising are included, but so are federal Title I funds and grant funds. Generally, there are more Title I funds available than there are private foundation funds, and the Title I funds go to the schools with the higher numbers of free and reduced lunch qualifying students. This throws the budget ranking out of whack, but that's more about federal programs than about district budgeting priorities.

Also, it's worth keeping in mind that more experienced teacher are higher paid than their newbie counterparts. Some schools attract or retain experienced personnel. This can also throw the budget ranking off. For instance, when looking at the 2009-2010 numbers, I remember that Alameda's teachers had an average of 12 years of experience, while Sabin's had over 20. This can lead to some dramatic differences in the number of dollars spent per student.

So . . . if you're going to look at budget numbers and compare expenditures at individual schools, make sure you look at some of the confounding factors before you draw any conclusions. I'm not saying there aren't insights to be gained from examining the budget numbers, just that it's important to get a big-picture view.

I have to say that I'm confused about why expenditures per student, which is almost entirely about teacher salaries, should play into discussions about facilities. Shouldn't we be making an unbiased assessment of the needs at each facility and tackling those that are in the worst shape for the rebuilds while doing necessary upgrades at others? I'd prefer some different priorities (i.e. seismic upgrades at every school instead of covered play structures at every school), but I'm comfortable with an approach that attempts to address the most serious problems based on need rather according to a per-student or per-building ratio.

The problem is that decisions weren't based on what schools were in the worst shape and the dollars are not being used to serve the largest number of students and there's the rub. The next school to get a complete rebuild is Lincoln. They closed a newer school to rebuild an older school and the students in that older school will be temporarily housed in the newer school before returning to their multi-million dollar remodeled school (leaving the other empty ) and the kids who previously attended the newer school have been displaced to falling down schools that get a patched roof. How on earth does that make sense?

anon, you are right, it does not make sense. I feel like pps is not making responsible decisions and at the same time they are making us feel guilty trying to convince us that the sky is falling and we have to pay more or something terrible will happen to our children. I don't like their tactic. It reminds me of a certain presidential election when a certain candidate was trying to scare us that if we don't vote for him, the terrorists will take over our lives. I voted against him then and I will vote against this tactic in May again.

Yeah! We don't agree with every aspect of the budget plans or how PPS is allocating their funds, so we should just withhold our tax dollars! Then we can get on these boards and instead of griping about how our kids don't get enough recess or art, we can gripe about how our kids have one teacher for 38 kids and the building's being held together with duct tape and super glue. That is, after we've snubbed all the families who decided to lottery into charter schools or go to private, because they don't feel having their children spend 35 hours a week in squalor. That'll teach 'em.

To anonagain,
What you described is exactly what PPS whats us to believe. But in fact, pps doesn't have to keep increasing class sizes or shortening school year. How about teachers start working closer to 11 months out of the year for the same salaries (no extra pay for summer school). This is how much I work and I also have a masters degree. My salary is comparable with teachers salary. The buildings will not crumble and the classes will not reach 50 students if we vote no.

Yup. Public schools suck. Pour all the money you want in em, but I have a one word solution for you all:

Or how about we get rid of school buses. Working parents drop their children at before/after school centers anyway. Stay at home parents can walk/drive their children to school. This is an urban school district. The distances are not huge and the students can only benefit from taking a walk. I am not saying this is perfect, but better to get rid of buses than get rid of teachers.

No, let's give them what they demand even though it makes little sense on the backs of my elderly neighbors whom cannot afford it on their fixed incomes so that after years of battling in this district my kids will likely see little benefit during their school tenure. Add to that the history of mismanagement and broken promises at PPS and you'll have squandered dollars, an increasingly disgruntled public and dwindling chances at future funding for additional projects. The size of the the bond and the way that money is to be distributed is a point of debate. But just like the political theater that comprised the high school redesign process this is just PPS dictating what they will do instead of truly creating a transparent, equitable and honest public process where citizens are part of the dialogue about how our money is spent and how our children are educated. Rejection of this bond is a vote of no confidence in Carol and her lack or leadership in PPS. It is my fervent hope that a more reasonable bond, one that is the result of more prudent long term planning and greater public input can be passed since my children's schools are both in dismal condition and have issues for which this bond was going to provide very temporary bandaids.


"The problem is that decisions weren't based on what schools were in the worst shape and the dollars are not being used to serve the largest number of students and there's the rub."

No, that is inaccurate. What you described is the *exact*, repeat, *exact* criteria they used, along with geographic diversity. That's it. There's no conspiracy, no devious behavior. Worst condition, most students, geographic diversity. That's the criteria. Period.

Anon, I think you're my new best friend and it's nice to see someone else who really questions how PPS does things!

If I truly believed this money would benefit the kids, I'd vote for it in a heartbeat. Contrary to popular mythology, Oregon has a low to middling overall tax burden, and another $300 over the course of the year doesn't really bother me.

What does bother me? PPS is a horrible, inefficient bureaucracy that operates with its own stupid agenda that does, little if anything to actually serve our children or confront its real issues. If a private business ran the way PPS does, they'd be bankrupt in no time.

An excellent example of this is something I'm currently up against, their lottery and hardship appeals system:

To begin with, the lottery system is supposedly "equitable and blind" (it isn't, more on that later) and results are calculated by a computer program. About 3,000 students applied this year (really, not a whole lot)---yet it took the transfer department over six weeks to get results to parents after the closing date. Really, this should all easily be programmable in a matter of hours, not weeks.

As for the appeal process, there's no deadline, not even close to everyone utilizes it (or even knows about it) yet I'll wait another six weeks to find out if the severe and pervasive bullying my daughter's been subjected to for YEARS will qualify her. Even though the department is well staffed, by well paid employees.

I attempted to efficiently request/facilitate the transfer from a higher level PPS employee and was told, "we don't do that, but you can appeal to me after you've filled out this and that form, if it's denied". In other words, jump through hoops, use more resources and people's time (MONEY) and then we'll see. For something that in a company, any suprevisor or manager would've approved just to shut the customer (parent) up.

The cash strapped, laying off teachers district also has "summer academies" that provide free instruction, transportation, breakfast and lunch to kids who are struggling. I think it's great, but that money could be spent on keeping some teachers available throughout the school year.

At my daughter's school apparently their speech pathologist has enough free time to make my daughter (who's quite eloquent and has an extensive vocabulary) her personal science project (their solution to their bullying issues was not to actually address these. but teach my kid to speak softly, since they view the bullying as her fault). In most school districts, speech pathologists are shared by several schools, not one, with lots of time on her hands.

Sorry for the long rant, but MY perception is that PPS clings to a large, useless, expensive bureacracy---and THAT'S why our kids are getting screwed.

P.S. The lottery? Our choice is DA Vinci. Last year, 25 students from our elementary school (Atkinson) applied, only THREE got in or 12% (Da Vinci accepts about 60% of the kids who apply---so we should see at least 10 or more kids admitted). At Buckman, about 95% of the kids who applied got in. This year we know of only ONE Atkinson kid who got accepted.

So PPS's expensive lottery program that we all pay for is flawed against benefitting our children. And NOT impartial.


More PPS in action from paper today. This is their idea of cooperation...all with zero accountability.

It's interesting as well, that the head of the teachers' union opposes the measures. The irony in all of this is that I find myself voting with the wingnuts who want school prayer, privatization and think teachers are overpaid. Again, I don't--but I do think PPS administration is mega-bloated and operates to further its own very pointless agenda.

While I may not agree with the way PPS has allocated its' funds, I don't think it is fair to penalize the hardworking teachers and administrators that need these funds. My children attend Ainsworth where we have an amazing principal and amazing teachers that are all working extremely hard to give our children the best education possible, the last thing I am going to do is vote against something that might help them or others like them. I think if you object to the way that PPS is run, get out and meet with the board members-make your opinions/needs known and vote for the candidate that you think will best represent you.

How is voting against something that won't directly benefit teachers penalizing them? My entire point (in two posts) is that I DO support the teachers and if it DID benefit them, I wouldn't hesitate with a yes!

The head of the teachers' union opposes it, that should be evidence enough of just how little this bond measure does for the teachers and kids. And obviously, I already do all the things you mentioned---as we see time and time again, the PPS administration will lie, cheat and do anything to push its useless, bloated agenda forward.

P.S. you say "might", not will. Since the only thing Ainsworth kids MIGHT get is some playground equipment, I'd say it comes at a fairly steep price. It's all very nice to talk about "it's for the kids", but it isn't. It's for the paper pushers.

P.S. Just checked. Ainsworth gets absolutely NOTHING from either measure. It's also a great schools "9" school and one of the wealthiest in Portland, so your argument's a bit disingenuous.

momx3 for me the answer is to vote yes to the levy and no to the bond. Many of us have been fighting for changes at PPS for years and have kids who are in high school or older and have learned the hard way that PPS does not act in good faith. This isn't new to us. We have attended endless meetings, talked until we are blue in the face, been offered promises and assurances; and then lied to.

Not sure where you checked, but here's the list of what Ainsworth gets:

--Replaced Roofing: Leaky roofs at Ainsworth will be replaced, including the main building and annex, a project that also increases earthquake safety as those portions of the roof are rebuilt to modern seismic standards.
--Play Apparatus: Old wooden playground equipment at Ainsworth will be replaced with a new, age appropriate structure. Existing playground equipment of appropriate construction and in good condition will remain.
--Increased Efficiency in School Heating Systems: Ainsworth’s out-of-date and inefficient boilers will be updated from fuel oil to natural gas for practicality of maintenance, energy efficiency, lower utility bills and a cleaner environment.
--Increased Safety for Auditorium Stage: To ensure the safety of students, teachers, school staff and volunteers, out-of-date stage rigging and curtains in the Ainsworth auditorium will be evaluated, inspected and repaired or replaced as needed.
--Teaching Technology Updates: To assist teachers and students, Ainsworth will be provided with a mobile interactive audio-visual presentation system that can be used throughout the school.
--Increased Accessibility for Students, Staff and Families: Renovations will be made to Ainsworth on the interior first floor to upgrade accessibility to classrooms, restrooms and drinking fountains and outside to ensure accessibility from the first floor to the curb.
--Increased School Security: To provide a greater level of security for students and staff at Ainsworth, a managed access system for staff will be provided at exterior building entrances. Main entrances will remain open during school hours.

Does anyone know what happens to the students if their schools are being rebuilt? Do they go another school that is NOT their neighborhood school? I can't see that the kids can be in school during a major rebuild. I can't find this information anywhere. Thanks! -I

Um, other than the roof, I see a lot of blahdy blah, bordering on cosmetic, quite frankly. Oh---and the same playground pork that has the teachers' union president opposing this measure.

The "teacher technology updates" sound a bit big brotherish (telescreens) to me! :-).

And again fewer paper pushers at N. Dixon, fewer endless consultant studies and a smaller ad campaign FOR THIS EXACT MEASURE would yield all the $$$ to not only make these overdue repairs, but keep some teachers, as well.

Just as most of us can't afford to go to Disney World AND remodel our kitchen in the same year, so PPS needs to reevaluate how they spend our tax $$.

Wow, remodel OR Disney?
Must be rough!
What about those of us that can barely afford to feed our family?

Yes, I'm a paper pusher/consultant planning a useless study at N. Dixon---your bond dollars paid for all my luxuries---and the private school MY kid attends.

So first you say that all Ainsworth will get is a playground overhaul. Then you acknowledge that yes, Ainsworth will get roof repairs, but dismiss everything else as cosmetic. How is an updated boiler system cosmetic? If my home's furnace were old, horribly inefficient, and needed frequent repairs, I certainly wouldn't characterize a replacement as cosmetic.

And accessibility upgrades? I guess they might come across as cosmetic if you've never dealt with students or staff who have impaired mobility. I understand that students with mobility issues often have to attend schools outside of their neighborhood because not all PPS schools are ADA compliant. I would think that ADA upgrades to old buildings would be well supported by Portland parents.

Increased safety for the Ainsworth stage? Maybe that wouldn't top your list of priorities when you consider school improvements, but it can hardly be called "cosmetic." The stage rigging at most PPS buildings is seriously deteriorated and a safety hazard. It seems entirely reasonable to make these spaces safe and usable to our students.

Teaching technology upgrades are also not cosmetic, not if you're a teacher trying to educate students. Having the system be mobile means it can be used in any classroom instead of being stuck in just one space. I see this sort of systems used to good effect in my children's school, most recently when a Nat'l Geographic photographer used one to give a presentation about endangered animals to 75 kindergarten kids. A/V systems aren't cosmetic any more than chalkboards are cosmetic.

And about the playground--I know that the reason for removing the old wooden play structure at some buildings has to do with the preservatives used on the treated lumber used to build those structures. Is this not the case at Ainsworth?

So is the problem that you see major problems at Ainsworth that will not be addressed by the bond measure? Or is it that you're aware of more serious problems at other schools and think they should be addressed before Ainsworth's roof and boiler? Or is it that you think all PPS buildings including Ainsworth are in good shape and don't need upgrades? Or is it that you are worried about the financial impact on your household and your neighbors if this passes? Or is it that you don't trust PPS to spend the money on building improvements even though there are independent systems in place to ensure that? Or is it that you're angry with PPS over other issues and want to withhold support as a way of demonstrating this? I don't think I understand the motivation here. Granted, you don't have to explain yourself to me, but you can if you want to, and I'm honestly confused.


Generally, students from a school being rebuilt are temporarily housed in a vacant building. For instance, the entire Marysville school is currently running at the Rose City building. They're not intermingled with other students or transferred out to other schools in dribs and drabs. The entire population goes to a different building--students, teachers, administrators, and support staff. My understanding is that the students are bussed to the new building--the transportation burden of moving the population out of the neighborhood doesn't fall on the families. Maybe someone from Marysville can comment on this?

PPS (and other districts) generally keep some overstock of buildings for precisely this situation. PPS has a number of buildings that are currently vacant, underused, or used for administrative purposes. They will shuffle student populations in and out of those buildings while the old ones are being worked on. I don't think PPS has released the plan on how to house those targeted schools, but maybe parents at some of the targeted schools know where they might go?

Also, I don't know for certain that the rebuilds will require moving student populations. Maybe it's possible that the work can be done in stages to avoid this dislocation.

Sometimes, if a new school is being built on a different property, students stay in their old building until the new one is complete. I don't think that's the case with any of the schools tagged for rebuilds under the bond measure, but again, I don't know for sure. I guess the only likely one I know of is building a new Faubion on the old Whitaker/Adams property. Does anyone from Faubion know if that's a possibility?

Of course, Ainsworth is facing insufficient funding that will lead to forced blended classrooms and loss of music/arts etc but I'm sure they'll appreciate the climber. That and it's a siemically unsound pile of bricks, but those patched roof areas will hold, I guess.

And Zumpie..the Portland Association of Teachers has not only ENDORSED BOTH measures, but is now hosting nightly phonebanks to get out the vote (homework, someone?). Your school needs you to join one, in FAVOR of the bond and levy.

And yes, you can push so that Ainsworth can get rebuilt now but it's crazy how parents who (hopefully) teach their children how to share, how to wait their turn so that the more deserving (the far more deserving schools, in terms of how bad off they are) get their chance, don't want to learn from a similar message.

No one has asked for Ainsworth to be rebuilt. Nice straw man.

Actually J and Kristin, if you actually READ all my posts, you'd realize that Ainsworth isn't my school. In fact I point out to an Ainsworth parent that it's one of the wealthiest in the district. I'm surprised they haven't already fundraised to install new playground equipment themselves.

My argument is that PPS is (which I notice you feel no need to contradict) a bloated, inefficent bureacracry that spends entirely too much money on keeping its pointless expensive processes and consultant studies intact.

If this money really WERE going to improve education, I'd support it. It isn't---and until PPS downsizes its administration and learns to actually serve the communities that pay for it, I won't be giving them more money.

If you doubt this, try dealing with their system to get ANYTHING done that falls outside of their norm. You'll be stunned by all the people there to give you non-answers, take non-action, non-admit to any error or fault and bury you in forms and processes.

Please prove me wrong, I'd LOVE to see or hear it.

I will be happy to contradict it -- the administrative overhead for PPS is at 4 to 5 percent, which places it among the top ten for school districts of its size nationwide for efficiency and savings. The idea that it's bloated is simply untrue.

And there are times that I haven't been happy with PPS, but I'm not about to let my kids end up going to an unsafe school just because of my own issues.

Oh, and sorry -- I was wrong....

This is a quote from an audit of PPS...

"Portland Public Schools has spent less than 3.3 percent of its operating expenditures on what the State of Oregon defines as "Central Support," including executive administration, board of education, business and fiscal services, human resources, payroll, retirement incentives, public information, grant management, research and evaluation."

Kristin, If the money was really going to make all of the school significantly safer then it would have no problem passing. That's not what the bond will do.

Um, given how Carole Smith routinely lies to us, I'm not too sure about that. I suspect the "audit" is a lot like Arthur Andersen's audits of Enron. Or Glickman's predictions on how PGE Park would pay for itself in no time!

There are an awful lot of awfully well paid people at N. Dixon, clinging to outdated ideas and processes while our children are in schools that weren't taken care of, bond measures we supported that did nothing and teachers that are being laid off.

A GREAT example of bond measures that we're still paying for that didn't do what they claimed was that one to pay for new textbooks in our classrooms. Yet almost everything my daughter's ever used have been FREE photocopies of old ones.

Not to mention all the $$$ the district could have if they had sold all that empty real estate they pay to maintain---and can't break even on. Oh---and the criminal activity big empty buildings attract.

Kristin, you've been suckered. Time to stop drinking Carole's koolaid just because she pavlov's you every time with "it's for the kids".

It's an independent audit -- you're welcome to Google it yourself. And I've done my homework, have been involved in schools for years -- no koolaid here...

The last bond measure was in the mid-nineties (what are all these bonds that you're talking about?) It provided for some earthquake upgrades, but was not enough to bring one single building up to code. Something you can, again, research.

And Tired Mom, will you back up what you say with numbers? Specifically?


Yes, here's the audit of how the last bond was mismanaged/misspent. Thanks for the reminder Kristin.

That wasn't an audit of the bond, it was of the whole district, and perhaps you missed the long list of accomplishments, including high achievement rates in the midst of low financial support, more teachers employed compared to other districts as well as low overhead costs.

And given that it was done in 1998, over a decade ago when there was an entirely different set of leaders in place, I can't imagine the challenges it pointed out can be laid at the feet of the current administration or board.

Thanks for the link. 230 recommendations for improvement? Is PPS just one big joke? If I was on that KPMG team, I would be very frustrated. How can you even audit a program with 230 problems significant enough to be called out in a report? Before I agree to give any more money to PPS, I want to see a follow-up audit telling us that all (or almost all) of the 230 recommendations have been implemented.
Sure, it is an old report, but that is because the last bond measure was back then.

I've voted on bonds and levies and I didn't even LIVE here in the mid-90's there was one roughly 5 years ago. I remember supporting it because my daughter was just shy of school age and I wanted the very best for her and other children.

I just thought of something else that makes your safety argument completely disingenuous: if the buildings really ARE that wildly unsafe then PPS as an entity (and consequently its board and leadership) are guilty of extreme civil violations, possibly criminal ones.

This would indicate they willfully and knowingly subject staff (their employees) and innocent children to unsafe conditions on a daily basis, in violation of city, state and federal ordinances. I encourage every parent here to contact OSHA immediately!

Oh---and a class action suit. Because honestly, if it really were that unsafe (or even remotely close to it), they'd find a way to fix it---or be sued or imprisoned.

Perhaps you can look at the huge numbers of reforms made and see the improvements. They have been telling you, for years, about them. It's all there...

And exactly my point -- the last bond, a very minor one, was over a decade ago. Can we imagine our houses if no maintenence was done for that long.

Reforms made? Only an independent third party can attest to the changes (such as KPMG, or a local firm). Are you telling me to take Carol's word for the changes?

Just please, do some homework before you decide, and don't let anger overwhelm what is best for our kids. Blaming the current administration for challenges in 1998 is like blaming Clinton for Obama's challenges.

I appreciate your perspective, and have to go off to work, but please, the information is there if you simply dig further.

Well, Kristin you can go to the facilities deficiencies list that although several years old contains countless safety issues that have still not been addressed.

Then you can go and compare what will be done at those various schools under the bond. The answer, considering the numerous health and safety concerns is not much.


Then, are we willing to pay more to have them all done?

Kristin, we have researched it---we're not impressed. Asking us to further research because your argument is flimsy isn't exactly an effective debate strategy.

My anger doesn't overwhelm me, I'll repeat myself AGAIN: if it really DID help the children, I'd be happy to vote for it. But there isn't a whole lot of evidence that it does. And using the "for the kids" argument doesn't automatically make that true.

Gotta ask, why are you soooo very desperate for this to pass? And don't say "for the kids" (cause lying Carole told me so), give real reasons. If things are that unsafe, then we really are talking OSHA violations and a complete dereliction of duty--to me mandating the immediate ouster of the entire administration. Ohterwise, they need to approach things differently and actually do their job!

I do agree with you there Zumpie!
Does no one wonder how things got to this mess in the first place? It wasn't overnight! Why did the system brush so much under the rug (and into their pocket) for so long? More like, why did we let them?

Vote NO on both. Time to let this fiscal mismanagement FOOLS know that they cant keep spending spending spending on frivolous projects and then come asking us for more money. The school budget already designates appropriations for fixing up the schools. The toolboxes in charge ignore these problems when they are small until they become a hazard and then try their scare tactics to get money from you. Hope this fails miserably so they get the point. Dont throw money at a broken system...FIX THE SYSTEM first.

I've supported these types of tax increases in the past. Doesn't anyone remember the Multnomah County Itax. Yeah, that was fun.

The problem in Oregon is that voters never learn. We vote for irresponsible politicians like Adams and Wu, we let Blumenauer build us trains, and developers get kick-backs for erecting empty buildings in the South Waterfront.

But politicians have failed, time and again, over and over, to make education a priority. Our children have been neglected for decades -- even during the "boom years".

Don't any of you "urban mamas" get irritated knowing that Oregon is spending $900million (without the federal match) on a 6.5 mile MAX extension to Milwaukie, but can't seem to muster the funds for basic services like education? Ever get pissed driving through the Central Eastside stuck in traffic because your local politicos spent $200mill on a streetcar extension but the schools suck?

Step 1, only elect politicians who make education a true priority. Step 2, if those you elected don't deliver quality education...don't reelect them. Adams, Leonard and Saltzman have been fixtures in City Hall for more than a decade. Kitzhaber is back for a third time at the trough...Blumenauer, a carreer politician. Decades of not making education a priority...

...now Jack up my property taxes to pay for it.

I don't think so.

Thanks Steve for the mansplaining. We "urban mamas" don't need things spelled out for us and we certainly don't appreciate being talked down to.

The way I see it, public transportation funds don't compete with public schools. That is because I don't believe that more money is an answer to fixing public schools.
I wholeheartedly support public education and public transportation. Unfortunately I had to vote no on the school measures because I believe the the only beneficiaries of the increased property taxes will be the teacher unions (the levy). The students could benefit from the construction bond and I am ready to vote yes on a different, smaller scale proposal that would be introduced after the recession and when the unemployment is back to usual.
This was hard, as I always voted in favor of education measures in the past (such a as the latest portland community college measure or the props 66, 67)

Anon, obviously if you've come to the conclusion to vote "NO" on both measures, you are a rational individual who can weigh things for yourself instead of voting the way the union wants you to. My post was not meant to be condescending; I am a huge supporter of schools through volunteering and donations of supplies, etc., and I know they need money. Measures 26-121 an 122 are NOT the way to do it.

Oh---just to put in perspective their mismanagament of funds. PPS does around $100K in catering just at the Rose Garden. This doesn't include all the business they give to other hotels and businesses around town.

Now granted, it IS stimulating the economy, but it's also spending $$$ that could be allocated elsewhere. It's considered a HUGE treat nowadays by plenty of businesses to just get sandwiches delivered. Let alone a multitude of catered events.

$100K more than covers a teaching position, not to mention quite a few new furnaces. Speaking of the furnace thing, why can't NW Natural DONATE them given all the new business they'll be receiving? Plenty of construction firms paid for PPS's bond commercials.

Here's more bout the waste that goes on at N.Dixon, from an insider. Think about this before you vote for the bond!

Wow, thanks zumpie.

Here's more: http://oregoncapitolnews.com/govdocs/portland/portland-public-schools/?dept=&class=&title=&like-first_name=&like-last_name=&total=&campaign=1&page=1

Remember these are YOUR tax dollars paying these outrageous administrator salaries. I personally have no issue with teachers being paid what they are, but these salaries place all of these individuals in the wealthiest top 20% nationwide.

As they ask us to give them more $$$$.

Hey anon---we won on both ends!!!

It's interesting to me that really, the "yes levy/no bond" proponents were probably the quietest group on either side. As usual, the Oregonian was FILLED with Troutdale wingnuts fully unaffected by any of us, venting their spleens and putting out fake property tax numbers---and Dub Dub and the Mercury were filled with "but it's for the children and Carol would never lie". In the only poll that really mattered (the vote) Portlanders (as they usually do) got this right.

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