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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The liberal case against the Portland school bond issue

You don't have to feel guilty if you vote no on the upcoming Portland school tax bond issue. It doesn't mean you don't care about the public schools or the students in them. Quite the contrary. The reasons to just say no are laid out pretty eloquently here:

We do not believe rebuilding/building schools is the critical next step to improving education outcomes.

Instead, research consistently highlights these three critical steps necessary for successful academic results:

1. More teachers who receive the training and support they need, so as to be held accountable for student outcome (PPS has a graduation rate of only 62%),

2. More instructional classroom days. In 2012-2013 students will be in classroom instruction less than ½ of the year, per The Oregonian 8/8/12; national norm is 180 days.

3. More parent involvement (parents who have high expectations and hold children and their schools accountable)....

Rosa Parks, the newest school, built in 2006, ranks in the BOTTOM 5% of Title 1 schools (Portland Tribune 8/2/12). Having a nice, modern building doesn't guarantee an education.

"Throwing money at education is purely symbolic; both CARING and FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY demand specificity and results." From "Only Connect" by Dr. Rudolph Crew, Oregon’s education chief.

Between these arguments and the fact that they're planning to borrow the same amount they tried for unsuccessfully last time, we're voting no. Again. Maybe if they asked us for money for programmatic improvements, our answer would be different.

Comments (24)

I would make one more point to this list of very good points:

Stop enabling the drunk. Our tax system is crap if we can't fund public education. There is way too much stealing of public resources for stupid stuff - like urban renewal.

By continuing to bail out inadequate public education funding with "special measures" just keeps the game going.

Vote NO on ANY tax measure until the political class gets the message. You have plenty of money - use it wisely.

Unfortunately, PPS can count on those who do not actually own a home, and those who have no idea where the money will come from to pass this measure. Note that all of the promotional material last year, and this year, says nothing about the source of the revenue (i.e., property taxes). Ask any ten random 20-somethings where the money will come from, six out of ten won't know. They are the ones who will pass this bill.

We have a superintendent who didn't know we had a HS graduation problem until the Oregonian told her. If that isn't a firing offense, then there is no firing offense. It means that for all those dollars in the budget, none of them have the vaguest idea what we're getting or not getting for that money. Every last one of them above the level of principal should be fired. Either they didn't know, either, or they knew and kept it from higher management. In either case, they should all be GONE.

Then there was the astro-turf for football they asked for and were refused by the public. But, they created some kind of ruse of having the old turf "condemned" as an excuse to replace it anyway. Who "condemns" astro-turf? You couldn't make this stuff up. Nobody would believe it.

Point number one reads like the typical liberal double talk where two separate points trip over each other. It's nothing but happy talk.

Public schools fail all over the nation because they've become vehicles for teacher satisfaction and support instead of student achievement. If you want real change start out by firing most of the superintendents and their assistants; find new hires who spend 100 percent of their time assessing, planning and implementing achievement centric policies and hiring principals and teachers who focus on one and only one thing, what works for each individual student.

Maybe you need to look at the site itself and not rely solely on the small excerpt that Jack cited.

Unfortunately, I moved out of the district a month ago. I would have voted no, and recommend voting no on every - and any measure until Super Carol, her henchmen, Poe and the rest of the detritus are gone. Let’s find someone local and competent that can run the district.

I have kids in the schools, so I'm voting yes. Simple as that. I'd rather that they have better, rather than worse, facilities.

"I have kids in the schools, so I'm voting yes. Simple as that. I'd rather that they have better, rather than worse, facilities."

Gee. Brilliant analysis. Has it occurred to you that the facilities would be fine, had they not chosen to "defer maintenance" so they could take the cash and cram it into staff benefits?

Sorry to hear Dave.
But a lot of us do not.
And cannot afford a gun to our heads to fork over more to the union pensions.

So when us property owners all move out of here it will be exponentially worse than if this doesn't pass.

I was never under the impression that the bond measure was to improve academic performance; I was under the impression it was to improve facilities. I think it's going to do that.

Another reason I'm voting yes is that Measure 5 limited the ability of Portlanders to tax themselves to pay for the education system they want, and that pisses me off. If a majority want to pay more property taxes so that our kids have a better education system, we should be able to do that. Since property taxes have been artificially capped for 20 years, and the growth of those taxes capped by M47/50 for 15 years, the only way to get more is through operating levies (which we have) and GO bonds (which this is). So far, I've voted for every one.

By the way, the argument that there is "enough" money in the system is a cop out. If you think you know where to find the waste that would create $400 million to renovate the schools, you need to run for school board, request to be a citizen advisor, or at least testify and enlighten the rest of us.

And in the meantime, vote no.

I was never under the impression that the bond measure was to improve academic performance

Case closed. Vote no.

Miles: How does throwing an excessive amount of money into a broken tax/educational system bring about change? The amount of money PPS is proposing for the school rebuilds is pretty much double what any other district in the state has spent and that includes sites that opened this fall. $95 Million for Grant, $85 Million for Franklin, $70 Million for Roosevelt--these are astronomical costs. Did you read the page on restore education before's site "How Much will the PPS bond cost Me?"
I do not not drive a Lamborghini nor would I feel comfortable doing so even if I could afford it. Nor do I want to drive a beater. This bond is so far out of touch with reality it is frightening. What do the people on our school board do for a living that they are clueless as to what is a reasonable budget? I have a really nice house I can sell you for $850,000 make that an even $1 million.

But WAIT! The advocates for the measure in their posts, brochures, media outreaches state that repairing, seismic upgrading and building a few schools is "to improve academic performance". Which is it?

Miles says he is voting yes because Portland's property taxes are too low.

Why doesn't he just send in more?

"By the way, the argument that there is "enough" money in the system is a cop out. If you think you know where to find the waste that would create $400 million to renovate the schools, you need to run for school board, request to be a citizen advisor, or at least testify and enlighten the rest of us."

Many people have already done just that. Saxton in advocating for PERS reform; Kulo in winning a modest PERS reform (both 10 yrs ago). Much more needs to be done to reform PERS. $1Billion more this 2 yr legislative session, just for more PERS (mostly to those no longer teaching our kids), and next 2yr session.

PERS, reform the PERS and you would have more money for both facilities (capital expense for the current bond) and operating costs.

Miles: How does throwing an excessive amount of money into a broken tax/educational system bring about change?

I don't think it's excessive, and I don't think it's broken (yet). I do think that when I went to PPS 30 years ago, before Sizemore's tax measures, people paid higher property taxes (connected to the actual value of their property), the schools were in better shape, and we had a top-notch public system. In fact, PPS turned out better students than many of the NY/NJ/PA private prep schools did (at least if the kids I went to college with were an indication of the quality of those schools).

If you're looking for a reason to vote against the bond, it's easy to find fault with PPS. But if you actually want to positively impact the education of 40,000 future taxpaying residents, you can't just say no and wash your hands of it. You don't change a system by destroying it. You change it by getting involved. They just appointed a citizen oversight body for the bond. Why not send a letter to each of them outlining your concerns about the high cost of the buildings? I suspect they might actually forward your question to those who will have to defend it.

Miles says he is voting yes because Portland's property taxes are too low. Why doesn't he just send in more?

Because we're all in this together. If the majority thinks we should pay more, we all pay more. If it thinks we should pay less, we all pay less.

PERS, reform the PERS and you would have more money for both facilities (capital expense for the current bond) and operating costs.

PERS reform is great. I pushed for it back then, and I will gladly push for more. But the bulk of what legally can be done, has been done. Implement every reform the City Club put in their report, and you don't solve the problem. We cannot go back in time and undo what the Democrats (and Republicans!) in the legislature did to us in the 70s and 80s. I don't think it makes sense to pass something that feels good, but just gets thrown out by the courst two years later.(Interestingly, one PERS reform being proposed is to require employees to pay the 6% pick-up. It's not really a reform, just a pay cut. And PPS teachers already do it.)

Really? Ya don't say. Ya don't say.

Coulda sworn the liberal policy for fixing things was throwing money at them. Past performance and all that.

Miles, "Since property taxes have been artificially capped for 20 years.."

3% annual increases are a cap?

I lived in Portland during 15 of those 20 years, and my property taxes went up AT LEAST 3% each and every year beginning in 1997. Some years, the property tax was higher due to local option levies.

It recently sold for $24k less than the "assessed value" and $150k less Multnomah County's estimated market value.
The poor SOB who bought it is paying $6,696 for a $280,000 house. That's $558/month just in property tax.

Only in Government can a guaranteed 3% annual increase be considered a cap.

No doubt he'll be paying $10,000/year at some point in the future: we just don't know when. Is his income going to rise 3% a year? Does his ability to shoulder that tax burden rise with the "assessed value" or with his income?

I'll give you a hint: most owner occupied housing isn't income producing. Most salaries aren't increasing 3% annually.

When you have the ability to tax a person's home, you have the right to take their home. This is especially true for the working poor and those living on fixed incomes.

Portland's middle class will flee to the surburbs and enrollments will decline while commute times increase.

"If a majority want to pay more property taxes so that our kids have a better education system, we should be able to do that."

It's pretty easy to vote for something you don't have to pay for. A good chunk of Portlanders are underwater on their mortgages, under or unemployed, and struggling to get by. You think they had seismic upgrades done to their houses? In addition, the disparity in terms of how houses are taxed is a joke. I have a 3-2 house in Concordia and pay about 4k in taxes. My neighbor has a 4-3 house on a double lot worth almost twice as much as mine and pays 1,200 a year in taxes. Tell me about how fair the tax system is in Multnomah County.

" I'd rather that they have better, rather than worse, facilities."

PPS and some bond supporters seem to asking resident property owners to finance modernizing three high schools (with plans to request future bonds for additional construction at remaining schools). What is the explanation for closing the three most recently built high schools (Jackson High School, Adams High School, Marshall High School)? While financial resources are limited due to poor economy, why not focus on student retention, achievement, and results oriented teaching improvements?
Restore Education Before Buildings

"More teachers who receive the training and support they need, so as to be held accountable for student outcome."

Oh yes, the accountability fairy appears again. It's a great word, accountability. It sounds so innocuous when what the writer means is "bust the union and make it easy to fire teachers."

I have no problem with helping out schools if this bond weren't paid out of property taxes. So many voters who support this bond are not home owners and will not directly be responsible for paying the bill on this hand-out to contractors via an incompetant school district.

Additionally, I am of the mind that since the pro-bond people can use the argument "my kids are in school, so I'm voting yes", I can reasonably use the argument: "pay for your own kids out of your own wallet- I have no kids, so I'm voting against it." We all need to vote for our own interests, right? Why don't you breeders take the deduction you get on your income taxes and pay for your kids? Oh yeah, you'd prefer everyone else support/subsidize your decision to procreate...


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