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Friday, October 12, 2012

O on Portland school tax: Give them more money, then pray

The pending ballot measure on the Portland school construction pork tax is downright depressing. It's essentially the same deal that the voters rejected last year, only with the mortgage stretched out longer so that the annual payments are lower. Somehow this makes it more "affordable," and so the Portland sheep are apparently going to pass it.

The city's daily (for now) newspaper just endorsed it, even though the editors over there seem to admit that the school's academic program is declining into the lousy zone. According to the O, the solution is to give the school bureaucrats all the money they want for facilities, and then urge them to get their act together with everything else. Somehow that's going to wake them up, and they'll shape up -- honest.

The bond itself is only part of the story, of course. The district also must show that the bond is connected to a larger effort to improve schools and maintain properties over time. Let's face it: Voters won't --and shouldn't -- be enthusiastic about multiple bond proposals if the district doesn't significantly improve its dropout rate and show real progress on school quality, which will require unprecedented cooperation between management and union leaders.

What a twisted concept of accountability, but so typical of the O's editorial stances over the last several decades. Say one thing, do another, and hope for the best.

The school bond will build LEED-certified study halls, from which the high schoolers will continue to sneak out and smoke pot. Academic quality will continue to decline, and taxes will continue to go up. Perfect! Sounds about as promising as the O's own strategy for dealing with the internet.

It's okay to vote no on this one, peeps. Let's tell Super Carole to either get it together over there or step down.

Comments (29)

I'm voting yes. The suburban districts have learned the importance of facilities. We need to make the same investment. I don't have children, I'm not employed by the district and I won't gain financially from this vote. But I want Portland to remain a city where families want to send their children to the public schools.

I said last time - all they're going to do is come back again and again until they get their union pig slop.

Tired of fighting their delusions. It's goodbye PDX.

Dave - 'remain a city where families want to send their children to the public schools'

really??! who?

The sad fact is we don't give our schools enough money to do their job. There should be no higher priority that education. Proper funding for education reduces costs for virtually every other big ticket budget item from law enforcement to healthcare.
Education=better citizens, simple as that. I don't like the hodge podge, dysfunctional tools that public school systems employ to raise funds. But until there is an adequate, dedicated funding mechanism, which seems about as likely as tax reform, what are the choices? I'm not a big fan of Super Carole myself but I wouldn't want her job. Continually begging for piecemeal funding is no way to run a railroad.

The fact Gannicott, is that public schools in Oregon at least, are black holes where the majority of taxpayer money goes with no accountability or return on investment.

In our lifetimes never - NEVER - once have the schools 'had enough money.'

And student performance has plummeted nearly inversely proportioned to their funding.

'Proper funding for education reduces costs for virtually every other big ticket budget item from law enforcement to healthcare.'

Not public education - not here.

So does parenting but we don't have to pay for that at the point of a gun.

I'm voting against this turkey again. They chose to defer building maintenance year after year, while siphoning that pot o'cash into benefits. It isn't about the kids™ - it's all about the supposed adults, their pay, and their benefits.

We pay over $12,000 per student, per year - to achieve a 30% dropout rate and kids who have to take remedial reading and math should they choose to attempt to go to college.

The problem I that observed when kids attend HS in Portland was that these kids are way smarter and more observant than school administrators give them credit for.

When young they start out wanting to believe everything they're taught in school, but around HS many begin to see right through the useless PC b/s and feel-good curriculum, as well as noticing the political scandals and how their parents get screwed, so they give up and drop out, having lost all faith in education.

Voting no - PPS simply can't be trusted to spend money wisely at this point.

How about those suburban schools? LO made some hard decisions and closed several schools. PPS has excess inventory of over 17 sites like Marshall, Kellogg and Smith--SITTING IDLE. If you look at each of the 81 schools that are open, they are under-enrolled by over 15,000 students. 5,300 of these "vacancies" are at the nine high schools. With these numbers you could close three high schools. When schools are under-enrolled the class offerings and staffing do not allow for a needed variety to capture students interests and needs.
Now lets look at the cost. This is throwing an EXCESS amount of money at the problem. Creepy's sustainablity center had a budget of $90 million for 13 stories. Grant has $95 Million, Franklin $85 Million and Roosevelt only $70 Million being poured into the till. This is $306-$386 pricing per square foot.
Now lets look at the management and the use of emotion to pass the bond. That last bond of 95 had seismic work at all the HS except Wilson. The work from that bond continued into 2007. And the board members could just cry that we did not have a bond before that since 1948. WE HAD NO NEED FOR A BOND FROM 48-95 BECAUSE MEASURE 5 CHANGED ALL THAT. Measure 5 put limits on operating levies NOT construction bonds. So from 1948-1995 we paid to build over half our inventory of schools from the OPERATING budget.
I do not think PPS can manage this scope of a construction project right out of the gate. They lack committment and expertise in a lot of instances. Look at Benson and how they have gutted the program there.
Take a look at restoreeducationbeforebuildings.com

Sorry, $70,000/yr for only 8 months of work is more than enough to expect better educational outcomes. This household is voting no.

The fact is there is no accountability for terrible teachers or administrators due to unions and political backdoor deals where contractors fund their election campaigns and are then rewarded 100x over with outrageously bloated project awards. $350/sqft?? What a rip-off. Such blatant corruption even the school children can understand the scam.

"and so the Portland sheep are apparently going to pass it."

Portland voters are a bunch of sheep, that much is true. Sadly, Portland voters generally get their way at the ballot box.

"It's okay to vote no on this one, peeps."

Good advice. Sheep need the encouragement. Especially those sheep that think this is a wise investment that is needed. Dave and Ganicott need to come up with better arguments for the "more, more, more money; followed by more, more and even more money" appetite that PPS has, with a complete lack of accountability towards results or efficient spending of all that "mo' money".

It has absolutely nothing to do with kids. It'a all about the real estate. There's no land of significant size left within the urban growth boundary. Schools and their surrounding open spaces, as well as public parks, are at risk of development because of the pressure from a handful of developers and giddy city leaders.

If these large construction and development moguls want their kids to have a business to run in Portland one day, they need a plan. The Real Estate Trust for Schools, originally presided over by Homer Williams, is the basis for this bond. It's hard to find the history on this group, which included Vera Katz when she was mayor, and Sam Adams, was the treasurer of the group at that time.

Take a look on Portlandmaps.org at the zoning for Franklin High School property. Very similar to the development slated for Lincoln High School.

Dave Anderson

Because the suburban districts have learned the importance of facilities and Portland hasn't is why this PPS bond is an asinine investment.

You need to pull out of the funk and understand that spending $70 -$95 million to remodel a high school is nuts.

It's not well thought out, it isn't a result of due diligence and it isn't the product of work by any prudent people.

It stupid. Just like the facilities and curriculum decisions for decades. Wise up.

The outcome will be a huge waste of money on obsolete buildings that will always require excessive maintenance costs which will certainly be once again and continually deferred.

For $50 million each PPS should be able to easily build 3 brand new high schools carefully chosen locations with construction designs & durable products which are attractive and reduce maintenance costs.

So 3 new high schools could be built for $150 million versus the $245 for remodeling 3 old ones into three updated old schools.

Don't give these PPS nuts millions to waste.

If the PPS hierarchy were genuinely intending on performing effective oversight they would ask for $100 bond to build one new high school, make upgrades to other schools not needing replacement or full remodels and prove it they can before asking for more.

They could put together an authentic oversight team to take advantage of every design and construction technique to build
a top notch school for the least amount of money.

Along with making effective upgrades on a few other schools they could demonstrate to the public they are capable of responsible management and oversight.

If they screw that up the public and district will have learned a lesson which saved 100s of millions.

PPS has done a terrible job with all the money they take from me. I won't agree to give them another nickel.

I am going broke paying for the jokers in the PPS system to retire as fat cats. How does that make any sense? Especially when such a huge portion of the kids in this community are getting a sh***y education and don't even graduate. Pathetic. These jokers - and those who keep throwing money at them - are destroying public education.

Pistolero, you are misleading. The school year starts at the end of August and ends in mid June. A teacher has 8 weeks off max. And if you think teaching 7 sections a day of 40 plus classrooms is some sort of cushy job, give it a try some time.

PPS uninvested for decades so the solution is to continue to do so. Very bright indeed.

Voting against for the same reason I voted against TriMet's bond last time: the leadership hasn't been good stewards of our money and this is one of the few ways we have of expressing our displeasure.

Plus the idea that a few smartboards and extra computers are gonna fix the various problems with PPS just doesn't pass muster with me.

They may be poor stewards of our money, but the administrators are too busy drawing up School Clusters to answer email questions. More Cluster F--ks now in progress of being created (busy work). VOTE NO, Please.

If your going to vote against at least do it for the right reason. The bond is so that the schools have heating systems less than 75 years old, working lockers, toilets that flush and drinking fountains that work. And buildings that can resist a moderate quake so we don't have a China level disaster killing thousands of children.

Before you vote no, go take a stroll through one fo these schools. Make sure you go see the physical plant area.

May be if they got rid of the 27 HR people in the school district they would have some extra spending cash for maintenance. PS I live across the street from a school and they replaced the heating system this summer.


You are embellishing, cherry picking and ignoring the most germane problems with the district disastrous management.

First, there's no sense is quibbling over the length of the summer break. Teachers may get 8 weeks off off but their contract includes another 40 or so paid days off during the school year. More I believe if they use all their sick days. Then there are additional days without any students or having to teach. So keep it real.

Second, I've known many fine teachers and they must have some kind of special genes to do what they do. But they are neither being tortured or riding a cushy job.
So get real their too.

Third, this shameless & incompetent bond measure is a continuation of that very PPS uninvesting for decades you mistakenly think this is a shift to righteousness.

If the district really were getting responsible they would have been wise to request a much smaller amount to PROVE IT by showing they are capable of being prudent with the replacement of some heating systems, lockers, toilets, drinking fountains, some quake upgrades and a single new school or modest remodeling.

Instead they are rolling the dice for the Full Monty without having ever demonstrated any ability to spend effectively on facilities, curriculum or administration.

Voter must demand the district first earn this kind of massive support.

Without genuine reform, real world accountability with actual consequences
voters are chumps to hand over this bond amount.

Why doesn't a $70-$95 million high school remodel disturb you? Have you been desensitized to absurdity? Get a grip. There is no honest rationale for such "investing".
This kind of misguided overspending on a few over sized undertakings dilutes the ability to catch up on the many needed repairs and upgrades district wide.

It's the administration who needs to take a stroll through these schools and reality.
And stop trying to make fools out the public.

"But I want Portland to remain a city where families want to send their children to the public schools."

That ended a long time ago - Just ask all the PPS teachers sending their kids to private schools.

If they could convince me this is not some kind of quasi-urban renewal project and there is something in it to actually turn out better students, I might be more inclined.

If you think shinier buildings means better students, I'd look at all the URDs and tell me if we get better jobs opps (excepting Homer and G-E types. In addition, for all the money we've thrown into the PSU District, I don't think academically PSU is any better than before.

"Why doesn't a $70-$95 million high school remodel disturb you? Have you been desensitized to absurdity? Get a grip."

I suspect that a lot of that has to do with bringing the schools up to super-Platinum LEED standards or whatever they are shooting for - sort of trainer Oregon Sustainability Centers. It's not as if PPS looks at its energy costs, and figures out the cost-effective amount of energy efficiency to put into the building, given actual energy prices - they are under a religious obligation to spend far, far more money on "sustainability" than is warranted.

Result: extraordinarily expensive buildings.

I think Teresa mentioned Smith School, and it's an excellent example: the facility was in good shape, though the playground equipment sucked - so we paid for all new playground installation so kids would be safer at recess.

A couple of years later, PPS closed the place (though the playground still gets some use from neighborhood kids). That's around six acres of land in the West Hills that isn't on the property-tax rolls - and if you think they're ever going to re-open the facilities, you're dreaming.

The reverse is true.


"According to Grimm, an acceptable renovation will add more than 10 years to the life of a building and carry costs less than 70 percent of a new building. If the reverse is true - if the renovation will add fewer than 10 years to a building’s life and cost more than 70 percent of the cost for a new building, then new construction represents the wisest financial course.

Next, an acceptable rehabilitation must add more than 20 years to the life of a building and cost less than 80 percent of building new. If the reverse is true, build a new building, say the guidelines."

PPS is proposing to spend far in excess of new buildings for three high schools.

Most people call that stupid.

PPS hasn't been using the dollars citizens have faithfully give to them.

In 94/95 there were 57,000 students and the budget was $315 Million.

In 08/09 there were 42,000 students and the
budget was $608 Million.

So attendance has gone almost 30%, but spending increased almost double. Makes no sense. You can't base all the differences on ADA, federal/state additional requirements. And what's worse is that in this 15 year span maintenance, new school buildings, etc. was almost nil. In fact there are less schools open.

So, where did all the money go to?

Sorry, a few grammatical errors.

gone-add "down"

Thanks for those numbers.
Is there any record/transparency of where the money can be accounted for?
Would one have to pay a lot of money to even get public records?
I am not too much in the know of schools and their operations, but land is of an interest and Shannon brought that subject up.

Shannon:It has absolutely nothing to do with kids. It'a all about the real estate. There's no land of significant size left within the urban growth boundary. Schools and their surrounding open spaces, as well as public parks, are at risk of development because of the pressure from a handful of developers and giddy city leaders.

I share your view on this. Several years ago when Charlie Hales was Parks Commissioner, Johnswood Park was sold for housing. Devotee's of the UGB apparently were OK and silent about this sale. Quite frankly, I am very concerned about your comment about the zoning of Franklin High School, what is it and was it changed to accommodate development? I too believe there are roving eyes on our public property, schools and parks.

School Mom,
I rather liked your idea to start out small to prove what they would do with the money. I think people would be more receptive with this economy to approve a smaller scale, let's see what happens with the money given. At any rate, it is sad to hear about education problems. Is this just another avenue of follow the money?

Mr. Grumpy:.....as well as noticing the political scandals and how their parents get screwed, so they give up and drop out, having lost all faith in education.

I would think it would be disheartening for students to see around them, situations and/or people either inept or corrupt and seeing our community continuing on and giving certain people no matter what they do a pass.
Then as you said having lost all faith in education. I will ask lost faith in what else? Students can see it is not a pretty scene. The debt alone passed on to them must be daunting and for those who do continue and then go on to college, for many another enormous personal debt.

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