Critics allow a better campaign
It is unusual, but certainly not unhealthy, for Portland Public Schools to face organized opposition as the district approaches voters with a request for money.
The Portland electorate, in general, has a reflexive understanding of the value of education and the importance of public schools - an understanding that has translated in the recent past to near-automatic approval of school-related ballot measures.
PPS is making an especially large request in the May election as it asks voters to approve not only a $548 million bond measure to rebuild schools, but also renewal of a five-year operating levy. And now, some parents have formed a 'Learn Now, Build Later' group that will campaign in favor of the additional money for operations, but against the construction bonds.
We haven't arrived at a firm conclusion ourselves about the wisdom of approving both these measures at once. We do believe, however, that vigorous discussion of the issues will allow voters to make a more informed decision.
Opponents of the bond measure raise valid questions about its affordability, its timing and its list of building priorities. Their questions will force bond measure supporters - who are both numerous and well-funded - to answer clearly how these construction projects will improve classroom learning and retain families within the Portland district.
The opposition campaign signals to PPS and its leaders that it is no longer good enough for school officials simply to say 'trust us' and expect voters to deliver the funding. Such large requests for taxpayer dollars deserve a complete community conversation - and we believe that having credible opposition will help ensure that such a conversation takes place.