Original Source | Oregonian
By The Oregonian Editorial Board, April 26, 2012
The David Douglas School District can't take voter support for granted. Perhaps that explains the prudence of the school board's $49.5 million bond proposal: a meat-and-potatoes package with a major emphasis on student safety and affordability.
Voters should approve this bond. It's both respectful of voters' wallets and realistic about students' needs.
The east Portland district is full of young families crowded into high-density affordable housing, recent immigrants struggling to make ends meet, retirees on fixed incomes and thousands of homeowners who want to hang onto middle-class status. Community pride in the schools is palpable. The 20-year bond measure facing voters in the May primary was clearly crafted with its constituents in mind.
Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian
A kindergarten class in the David Douglas School District.
First, it doesn't raise taxes. It is designed to replace an expiring bond. Homeowners would pay no more than $1.76 per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $250 a year for a house assessed at $140,000.
Second, it emphasizes safety, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. A significant portion of the bond would pay for earthquake retrofitting, asbestos removal, fire alarms and security systems. Another big chunk of money would go toward replacing aging portable classrooms and modernizing features like heating, air conditioning and windows.
These endeavors lack sizzle, to be sure, but cost-conscious voters may appreciate the restraint.
Third, it relies on community partnerships. A small portion of the bond money -- about 7 percent -- would help pay for the construction of an early childhood education center. Other partners would chip in with the rest. This is a smart collaboration and a sound investment, considering the importance of early learning to close the achievement gap and prepare disadvantaged children to thrive in school.
The bond measure isn't all business, of course. For example, it does include money for books and a $3.6 million pool facility at David Douglas High to replace an aging swimming pool that needs costly repairs. Students who play sports and younger students learning to swim might identify this pool project as bond's best part.
Notably, the bond does not finance a new high school, though David Douglas High is the state's largest with 3,000-plus students. District officials explain that enrollment has flattened in recent years, and the campus can handle the current student load.
David Douglas has struggled mightily to accommodate stagnant state funding. Its reserves are shrinking, its operating budget is smaller than it was several years ago and it has no local-option levy. Yet this low-drama district has done well under difficult circumstances. This bond is a good fit for a community that cares about the upkeep of its schools.