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School bond, levy needed now

Two Views • Portland district's ballot measures stir concerns about priorities, funding in tight times
by: Christopher Onstott Eric Fruits, a parent organizer of the "Learn Now, Build Later" campaign, rallies to oppose the Portland Public School’s facilities bond measure to upgrade and rebuild schools, saying the economic timing is bad.

As Portland Public School parents and teachers we have the same goal: giving students the best possible start in life, and giving our community a public school system that will be a strong foundation for our neighborhoods, our economy and our future.

There are two basics to a sound education:

• Students need teachers - enough teachers to provide a sound and varied curriculum and to keep classes to a reasonable size.

• Students also need school buildings that are safe, with classrooms and other facilities that are up-to-date and support a modern education.

You cannot have one without the other and expect our children to compete and succeed.

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Because we are in the schools every day, we also understand that there is a clear and present danger to those goals. The physical condition of our schools has gone far beyond being a problem: it is a crisis. Unless we act now, we face state school funding cuts that will result in the loss of hundreds of teachers.

Fortunately, we have the chance to do something about it by uniting as a community for our school to vote yes for both the Portland schools bond and the local option levy.

Let's start with the local option levy. By renewing and extending the current levy, we will be able to avoid the layoffs of more than 200 teacher, protecting class sizes at every level. The measure's importance speaks for itself.

As for the bond, it is an overdue response to an urgent situation. Our buildings are crumbling and in many cases are unsafe. What does unsafe mean?

• Asbestos and carbon monoxide exposure

• Fire and earthquake safety issues

• Damage and danger from unending water leaks

• Electrical systems overloaded from attempts at supporting modern equipment with 1950s wiring.

Out-of-date classrooms and buildings also hamper children's ability to learn, with extreme cold and heat, inadequate lighting and ventilation, science classes without sinks (much less science equipment) and inadequate space to fit students and teachers.

PPS is the only district of our neighboring 20 without a facilities bond in place. The lack of dedicated facilities money means major repairs and upkeep funds must come from operating dollars, reducing money needed for teachers and classroom instruction.

It is long past time to act. But there are some who recommend further delay. We all know when it's time to do repair work around the house or at work or, in this case, in the community. All kinds of excuses are made about waiting a little longer.

That is, however, one of the reasons we're in this situation. The result is that every day we're sending our children and our neighbors into school buildings that are literally falling apart.That certainly doesn't reflect who we are as a community.

There is a lot of information flying around about the bond. Unfortunately, much of it is misinformation, or focuses on small aspects of the proposal while missing the larger picture of the crisis in our school buildings.

The best voter is an informed voter. We urge you to get the facts. Once you do, we are confident that Portlanders will join us in supporting the bond and levy for Portland Public Schools.

We all count on good public schools, and our children only get one shot at a good education. Please give them that chance. Vote yes for our Portland schools.

Rebecca Levison of Northeast Portland is president of the Portland Association of Teachers. Beryl Morrison of Northeast Portland is president of Portland Council Parent Teachers Association.