Can you tell me whether to laugh or cry or scream?
Below is a quote from newly appointed School Board member Gary Boswell, the oracle of the middle school bond fight, who CLAIMED we NEEDED a THIRTY FOUR MILLION DOLLAR MIDDLE SCHOOL. Boswell and his band of “we needers” told us BEFORE THE VOTE that they KNEW the school was “unsafe” and “unhealthy”. Now we get this LOL quote in the Oregonian from Boswell:
“Gary Boswell, a parent who recently joined the school board after heading the failed bond campaign, says he wants the district to conduct air quality tests and send a structural engineer to evaluate the building.
“We want some quantifiable tests,” he said. “Once we get the testing done, we can stop all the rumors and arguments and really know where we stand.”
Nice work Boswell! “… REALLY KNOW WHERE WE STAND?” Shouldn’t you and the bond committee have “REALLY KNOWN WHERE WE STAND” BEFORE you asked for 34 MILLION? Are we supposed to believe what you said before the vote – or what you say now? You never told us about the need for “quantifiable tests” BEFORE THE VOTE.
Good work NO Voters! At least 58% of us knew no one was telling the whole truth. Read the whole Oregonian story on the link that follows. It is curious that the District and the parents now acknowledge what I wrote in the Pioneer: That there is tons of SURPLUS CAPACITY in all the schools. We are paying through the nose for a bunch of buildings no one takes adequate care of. When do we get competent district leadership that TAKES CARE OF OUR COSTLY INFRASTRUCTURE? And when will those parents start to worry about EDUCATION – because it isn’t going to be a pretty decade in Oregon for school funding.
Here’s a quote from a great op-ed about the PDX school district “fix it” infrastructure bond proposal:
“While our school buildings are certainly in awful condition, significant future budget shortfalls may force a choice between buildings or teachers. And updated buildings will not serve our students if PPS cannot provide a quality education within them.”
All we need to do is change ONE NAME and we get this true statement:
“While our school buildings are certainly in awful condition, significant future budget shortfalls may force a choice between buildings or teachers. And updated buildings will not serve our students if MOLALLA RIVER SCHOOL DISTRICT cannot provide a quality education within them.”
If PDX can’t count on money for BOTH education and building upgrades, what do you think will be the FACT in Molalla? PDX is like Fort Knox compared to this failed timberville, home of urban decay and ex-home of fleeting commuters.
Here’s the link to the LOL story with Boswell’s inane quote:
And now here is the great op-ed from a PDX parent that the above quote about the “either or” – buildings or education – came from. I couldn’t agree with her more, especially the parts I highlighted. Just as in Molalla, PDX is trying to tie too many things to a bond – like producing a “skilled work force” and, as noted many times in Molalla:
“In a tough economy, an expensive bond measure could displace public willingness to support classroom operations and force a choice between buildings or teachers and programs.“
TAXPAYERS TO MRSD: “YOU’VE LOST OUR TRUST AND WE ALL HAVE THE FAILED ECONOMY IN OUR FACE! Get some REALISTIC PLANS FOR A CHANGE!”
The PPS bond measure: Better buildings are no substitute for better education
Published: Monday, December 13, 2010, 8:00 AM
By Lainie Block Wilker
As a concerned parent and committed advocate for public education, I urge Portland Public Schools to adopt a more modest facilities bond measure in conjunction with renewal of the local-option levy to assure adequate funding for classroom operations. A facilities bond should be prudently designed to serve the most students, prioritize the worst buildings and fairly allocate scarce resources. While our school buildings are certainly in awful condition, significant future budget shortfalls may force a choice between buildings or teachers. And updated buildings will not serve our students if PPS cannot provide a quality education within them.
Our school buildings are in dire need of repair. Student learning environments are compromised by leaking roofs, broken heating systems, outdated safety and security systems, and inadequate or nonexistent science and technology labs. My daughters attend Laurelhurst School, one of the worst physical facilities in the district. Its dilapidated building is crammed to 40 percent overcapacity, to the point that the district can’t offer some educational programs because of space constraints. While I fully appreciate the need for a capital bond to update facilities across the district, it needs to be in conjunction with assuring adequate operational funding.
Laurelhurst’s principal has braced parents for devastating cuts. The district has a projected $40 million budget shortfall, with another $38 million in local-option funding expiring in mid-2012 (the equivalent of about 800 teaching positions). It’s hard to believe our classrooms could get worse.
My first-grader has 28 kids in her classroom, including kids with behavioral issues and special needs. Much of the day is spent on crowd control rather than learning to read. In Portland, our kids go to school three weeks less than students in other states. PE is down to once a week, and the district has steadily hacked away at enrichment programs. While I would love to see updated facilities, most parents are more concerned about having stable funding inside our classrooms.
In a tough economy, an expensive bond measure could displace public willingness to support classroom operations and force a choice between buildings or teachers and programs. PPS cannot use a capital bond to fund operations, but the bond could be prudently scaled back and put on the ballot with renewal of a local-option levy for classroom operations. A bond without adequate operational support is a tough sell to parents who are worried about huge class sizes and lack of programming.
The current proposal doesn’t meet the school board’s own criteria of serving the most students, prioritizing high-need buildings and geographic diversity. In particular, the proposal to spend $50 million on a new Jefferson High School campus serving less than 400 students at a perpetually failing school seems financially irresponsible. Both Franklin and Grant high schools have worse facility condition indexes, serve more students and provide more geographic diversity to generate broader public support.
The $50 million gamble on Jefferson is symptomatic of a spare-no-expense approach to struggling schools, while the majority of students receive barely adequate educational funding. For example, Grant has the lowest per-student funding ($4,432), worst FTE ratio (20.48:1), and largest class sizes (30.1) of any PPS high school. Jefferson receives twice as much funding per student, and Roosevelt nearly three times as much with grant money. PPS concentrates a huge amount of scarce resources on bringing up the bottom and closing the achievement gap, while providing little academic support once a student meets academic benchmarks. That’s not a formula for sustaining strong community schools that are key to our city’s economic vitality and livability, or for educating a skilled workforce to drive our regional economy.
This bond measure is being pitched to Portland’s business community as a way to develop a skilled workforce. The reality is that facilities alone will not help our kids without adequate support for academic instruction. At Grant, many kids can’t even get into oversubscribed classes, and 56 kids are packed into calculus class. The district has hacked away at advanced programming, arts that foster creative decision-making and foreign languages that enable kids to compete in a global economy. The bond measure might build gyms without PE teachers, auditoriums with no music or art assemblies, state-of-the art science and technology labs without teachers.
I’d like to support the bond. But the proposal needs to be financially responsible. It needs to serve the most students. It needs to prioritize the worst facilities.
And, most importantly, it needs to be done in conjunction with measures to assure sufficient classroom funding equitably distributed across all schools — funding that will allow students to excel, not just to pass.
Lainie Block Wilker lives in Northeast Portland.