Even as the PPS Board reconsidered its facility options, complacency and blindness to global realities anchored their deliberations.
They came. The Portland Public Schools Board held a hearing on its proposed $482 million facilities bond measure (down from the $548 million proposal that lost in May, 2011). Leaders of Portland’s political culture came, educational advocates all. The hearing was more a tribal pep rally than one last discussion of the bond proposals. Of the approximately thirty people who testified, only one opposed the bond measure.
They spoke their mantras. They spoke about how they care for the kids. Many spoke of their desire for 21st century facilities and educational programs. Some mentioned more information technology in classrooms. None mentioned the need for more Mandarin immersion programs. None mentioned the need to send high school student abroad for a year of high school in emerging global markets. None spoke of moving learning out of high schools with more independent online course offerings. Not the two candidates for mayor, Hales and Smith. Not a one of the three state legislators: Dembrow, Frederick, and Keny-Guyer. Not the city commissioner: Fish. Not the city commissioner elected: Novick. Not the Chair of the Multnomah County Commission: Cogen. All played it safe and sang with the choir. Their constituents were listening. Schools need more funding. Forget change. Stay in everyone comfort zone. Ignore changing global economic and national security needs. Don’t step outside the “localism” of Portland’s political culture. Go along, get along. Sad. And not what Portland needs in this historic, transformational period.
The PPS Board will send the bond measure for a vote in November. Its $482 million is $66 million (12%) less than the May, 2011, proposal of $548. It is more focused in its spending and spread out over more years. But it does continue to enable an outdated, inadequate for the current global economy, and inefficient (no cost savings from online offerings) educational system.
I’d give it a much better than 50%/50% chance of passing, unfortunately. Even as the PPS Board reconsidered its facility options, complacency and blindness to global realities anchored their deliberations.