Frequently Asked Questions
What is proposed in this bond measure?
The Portland Public School (PPS) District Board has approved asking voters to pass a $482
million bond to support three sets of projects:
- Completely modernize 4 schools (Roosevelt, Franklin, and Grant High Schools and
- Improve safety and accessibility in at least 30 additional schools through seismic
upgrades, roof replacements, and other critical structural improvements.
- Improve science classrooms for students in Grades 6-8 at up to 39 schools.
The vote will be November 6, 2012.
What will the bond cost me annually?
The cost for the average homeowner, for a $150,000 home, is $165 a year for the next 8 years and $45 a year for a remaining 12 years. An independent committee of citizens will serve as a watchdog to make sure our school dollars are spent wisely.
How much will the rebuilds cost per square foot?
The district estimates $208 per square foot in hard costs to rebuild elementary grade schools and $220 per square foot for the high schools. This is the mid-range for Portland Metro hard costs. Total project costs include hard costs (bricks, mortar, labor), soft costs (plans, permits), a contingency factor based on standard practice, and the contents needed to make a new building usable by students and staff. Read the project estimating method for yourself.
How is PPS dealing with its budget constraints? Have they cut administrative costs in the past year?
Central support positions were reduced by 10 percent in the 2012-13 budget. PPS currently spends less than 4 percent of its general fund budget on central support. The average urban school district spends 8 percent on central administration, according to the Council of Great City Schools. Seattle Public Schools spends 6 percent on central support. | See Politifact
A November 2011 Oregonian article reported: “Portland Public Schools is lean when it comes to very high salaries. It paid just 88 people, or 2 percent of employees earning at least $30,000, more than $100,000 last year, including only four employees earning $130,000 or more. Neighboring Beaverton schools, with about 15 percent fewer students than Portland, paid more employees $100,000-plus last year -- 106 people, or 4 percent.” | The Oregonian, November 13, 2011
According to the Chalkboard’s Open Books Project, PPS spends a comparable portion of its budget on the classroom (72%) as Beaverton (72%) and Salem-Keizer (73%) school districts, and more than the overall state average (70%).
What about the other schools in the Portland Public School District – when will they all be fixed or re-built?
This first bond will bring significant improvements to most schools, through repair or
replacement of roofs; seismic, accessibility, and other structural upgrades; and science
All Portland Public Schools need renovation – from fixing leaky roofs and upgrading electrical systems to meeting seismic safety standards and completely rebuilding facilities. The School District asked a citizens committee (Long Range Facilities Plan (LRFP) Advisory Committee) to recommend how best to address these needs. That citizens committee concluded that the District should issue a series of school construction bonds to upgrade all PPS schools over 30 years. The bond on the November 6, 2012 ballot will start that work.
Future bond measures will see that every school receives the repairs and renovations each needs. The PPS Long Range Facilities Plan (pdf) is a roadmap for a upgrading every PPS school.
In addition, an AD Hoc group may up of members of the LRFP produced a summary document describing how the implement the Long Range Facilities Plan, “An Asset Based Vision for Portland Public Schools.” (pdf)
Why is PPS proposing a school facilities bond now? We are still coming out of a recession, and many people are still struggling to make ends meet.
The bill to repair and rebuild Portland’s schools is long overdue. Lack of stable capital funding for school facilities has created a $1.6 billion deferred maintenance backlog. Portland Public Schools have not had a school bond since 1995. In contrast, in that same time period, every other school district in the Portland region has been using a long-term bond program to invest in and rebuild their schools.
We cannot afford to wait any longer if we want our children and our city to compete in a global economy. Our children attend school in buildings that need seismic safety upgrades, have leaky roofs and pipes and out-dated electrical systems, and have unreliable heating and cooling systems. Our schools are inadequate to support the technological and science education our children and our city need to compete in a 21st century economy. We can’t keep kicking the can down the road.
PPS just proposed a facilities bond last year and it was defeated. How is this one different? Why are they trying again?
The 2012 bond measure is different in significant ways from the measure defeated in 2011:
- A transparent, citizen-led process was used to determine how and when to address the physical needs of Portland Public Schools. This was accomplished through the work of the Long Range Planning and Facilities Advisory Committee (pdf).
- The citizens committee recommendation was based on fact-based technical information
that evaluated every school on objective characteristics, which can be grouped into:
- Educational adequacy
- Building condition
- Review of all site and building systems, including a life-cycle capital renewal forecast
- The November 2012 bond measure is for a lower total amount than the previous one, and
its impact on property owners will therefore be less. A $482 million bond is proposed;
that represents a tax rate estimated to be $1.10/ per $1,000 of assessed value. The rate
would be split between $1.10 paid over 8 years and .30 cents paid over an additional 12
Read more information about this here.
PPS is still working on its vision for high schools, boundary changes, and school consolidations. Shouldn’t they figure out all of that before starting to fix and rebuild school buildings?
PPS is approaching this bond measure in a deliberate and phased manner, focusing the first bond at the high school level, plus one K-8 school. In this way, more students will benefit sooner. In addition, the district has largely completed the high school consolidations so it makes sense to turn to the physical needs of these schools first. The rebuilding and reconstruction program for each school will incorporate and reflect the long-term educational goals of that school and the District.
How many schools has PPS closed in the past ten years?
PPS has closed 15 schools in the past 10 years, including Marshall High School in 2011 (the first high school to be closed in Portland in 30 years.)
PPS doesn’t have enough money for teachers and educational programs. Why should we invest in facilities before we have enough money for teachers?
Our children should not have to attend school in unsafe and educationally substandard buildings while our state legislators continue to fail to provide funding for a high quality education for all. Our children and our city need both to succeed – modern, safe buildings and excellent curriculum and staff.
Research demonstrates that school facilities have a measurable impact on the achievement of our children. Student performance improves when physically subpar schools are upgraded.
“While factors such as teachers and parental involvement have an indisputable impact on student achievement, well-designed school facilities - the places where our children spend the majority of their waking hours - can significantly bolster whatever human inputs our students receive. On the other hand, poorly-designed or -maintained buildings threaten to undermine every other effort we may put into our educational system.” (Center for Innovative School Facilities, pdf)
Why can’t PPS find the money elsewhere to upgrade its buildings?
PPS and every school district in the state have experienced continued education funding cuts from the state legislature for over a decade. In response, every school district has focused their diminishing funds on keeping teachers in classrooms and offering a full academic curriculum. As a result, some maintenance has been neglected and built up. In addition, PPS buildings average 65 years in age; most were built in the 1920s, 1940s, and 1950s. PPS buildings, on average, are older than those of other school districts in the area, and are older than the national average of 40 years, which itself is considered substandard. The bill has come due – overdue, really. It is large, and there are not many places to turn to fill the growing hole.
Currently, PPS uses property taxes and construction excise taxes to fund the capital needs of schools. The construction excise tax is a limited source. Construction bonds offer a dedicated source of funding – they can be used only for major renovations or replacement of school buildings.
If PPS had taken better care of its buildings, perhaps we wouldn’t need to rebuild them now. How can we be sure PPS will maintain all of these new facilities?
It is true that PPS has deferred some long-term maintenance and repairs. However, the District did not disinvest willingly or happily. With Oregon’s broken system for funding public education, the community has time and again insisted that the District cut back on maintenance to blunt the decline in classroom spending. The math is inexorable: sporadic capital funding plus declining operating funding equals disinvestment.
To ensure this does not happen in the future, the PPS Board adopted the Long Term Facilities Plan as part of this capital investment strategy. The plan sets forth four guiding principles. One of those principles, “fiscal responsibility,” states: “Fiscal prudence entails fully funding the costs of school facilities and their operations, staying current with preventive maintenance, and budgeting for the total cost of ownership.”
Methodologies to see that principle fulfilled include commitments to assess the physical condition of facilities on an ongoing basis, to stay current on funding a Capital Asset Replacement Plan, and to coordinate normal maintenance with community-initiated volunteer efforts to maintain landscaping and buildings.
Why does the bond focus so much on high schools?
Starting at the high school level serves greatest number of students and reaches the every neighborhood city quickest.
I’ve heard there may be more bonds coming in the future. Is that true?
Yes, our city needs to embrace a long-term vision for rebuilding our schools for the 21st century. Feedback after the last bond attempt revealed that the public wants to take on this large project in smaller bites, but recognizes that every Portland public school is worn out to some degree. This phased method also allows PPS to demonstrate success with each bond measure and build trust among voters. Our city needs to put its support behind our school system for the long term, as one bond cannot address all our schools’ needs.
Future bond measures will see that every school receives the repairs and renovations each needs. The PPS Long Range Facilities Plan is a roadmap for a upgrading every PPS school. Read more information about this here (pdf).
How will students be involved in this process?
We want students to be able to learn from all stages of this process – from bond development and communications to building design and build. We have encouraged PPS to promote student involvement in long term development committee, to create internships during the design/build process, and to create school curriculum that reflects this work.
In the last bond, different schools were proposed to be rebuilt. Now, just a year later, those schools are different. What changed?
Prioritizing schools was difficult, since almost every school in the district needs modernizing. PPS completed a comprehensive assessment of the condition of every school building. The District’s Long Range Planning and Facilities Advisory Committee reviewed each school’s assessment and narrowed the criteria to prioritize buildings for renovation and reconstruction.
The priority criteria focused on:
- Seismic and safety upgrades
- Educational adequacy
- Educational partnerships
The schools proposed for this first bond meet these criteria:
- Grant, Franklin and Roosevelt are all high seismic risk high schools and need significant
- At least 30 additional schools will receive seismic upgrades, roof replacements,
accessibility improvements, and other critical structural improvements.
- Students in Grades 6-8 at up to 39 schools will receive science classrooms improvements.
- Faubion K-8 school will leverage a major capital partnership with Concordia University, making Faubion K-8 a national model of collaboration between K-12 and higher education.
Our city’s high school dropout rates are high, can new buildings really help that?
Yes, school building design impacts achievement. Modern learning environments, safe and inspiring spaces, facilities for creative and performing arts, and appropriate technology are just some of the important ways we can design our schools to reach the needs and interests of every student.
The drop-out rate is a significant issue that PPS must address head-on, with community support. However, our schools and the community are not just waiting for new buildings. Despite $45 million in budget cuts in the last year alone, the PPS dropout rate fell by 7%.
Is PPS thinking creatively about ways to fund facilities? It seems we need some innovative, out-of-the-box thinking. What partnerships are being explored?
PPS proposes to leverage bond funding through partnerships with the city, the Portland Development Commission, local higher education institutions, and Portland’s business community.
My neighborhood school isn’t listed as a school that is scheduled to be rebuilt. Will it receive any benefit from this bond?
Almost every school in the district will benefit from this first phase bond measure, through
seismic safety upgrades, roof repair or replacement, science classroom modernization, and
My neighborhood school is a beautiful, historic structure. Will it be torn down?
If a school is slated for a “rebuild,” PPS will use a community engagement process to bring together students, teachers, parents, community members, businesses, and local organizations, as well as experts in historical preservation and architecture, to build a collaborative vision for the site. In many cases, the “shell” of historic buildings could remain intact, while structural and safety enhancements are installed and the interior of the structure is completely modernized.
What is your stance on campaign finance?
Our Portland, Our Schools is committed to running a grassroots campaign.
We are engaging volunteers from diverse backgrounds and raising money in order to spread the word about why Portlanders need to vote “yes” on the November property tax measure to rebuild our schools.
But we will not take major contributions from firms that could directly benefit from the proposed $482 million bond package. Construction and architecture firms that plan to bid on bond work are therefore limited to contributions of $1000 or less.
So instead of relying on money from companies that may have a conflict of interest, we are proud to be running a campaign that is community-driven. Parents, business leaders, teachers, and residents from across the city are supporting our campaign. We all agree that our tax dollars should pay for the physical improvements that our schools and our communities need.
Our schools are at the heart of our community, so our campaign is focused on following our neighbors, not influential money.
Leading up to Election Day, we will continue to work tirelessly in order to make sure that your donations help us reach citizens throughout Portland with a compelling message about why the school bond is so important.
If the bond passes, when will the work begin?
Important outreach and planning work will begin immediately after the bond passes. The first round of educational & physical facility improvements would then begin during the summer of 2013.
Improvement projects at schools (fixing roofs, seismic strengthening, accessibility projects, middle-grade science classrooms) would be scheduled in the summers in order to avoid disruptions to students and teachers. Work would continue each summer through at least 2018.
Master planning for Faubion and for one of the high schools would likely begin in spring 2013. Actual groundbreaking at Faubion would be dependent upon the time it takes Concordia University to raise money for their share of the project.
Planning and design work at each of the three high schools would take roughly 16 to 20 months. This is a complex process going from a conceptual design to a detailed construction plan, with the city performing a plan check before it issues permits for construction.
If Portland voters approve the School Bond, Measure 26-144, the Portland Public School district will make a recommendation to the School Board on a proposed schedule for the 4 renovations/rebuilds and the seismic, science lab and disability access upgrades. The public will have opportunities to share their recommendations, ask questions, and express concerns before the Board decides whether to approve or amend the staff recommendation. No final decisions have been made about the "swing space" that would house students and staff during full renovations; if voters approve the bond, community engagement and detailed planning would begin after November 6.
From PPS Frequently Asked Questions: School construction can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months, depending on the size of the school and the extent of the construction work effort. The staff and students would temporarily move into "swing space" – just as Marysville students now are in the Rose City Park school building. PPS has several sites that could be prepared to accept students. PPS would provide transportation. In some cases, students may remain in their current school while a replacement school is built in phases or on another part of the school property.
How will the public be involved in the renovations?
For each of the four schools that would undergo major renovations, a local design advisory group of school staff, parents, students, and community members would work with PPS staff and the design team of consultants.
Public meetings will be scheduled in order to allow everyone to share input on each school’s design. Parents and community members who don’t usually come to large public meetings will be specifically targeted for additional outreach. Students from across the city would have opportunities for internships in the design process, gaining skills and knowledge in architecture, engineering, sustainability, construction estimating, and public process.
Contractors would also be leading career learning seminars at high schools. In addition, students and faculty will be involved in the selection of chairs and other furnishings.