Just got home from witnessing a school board meeting, where an enormous amount of energy and emotion was expelled over whether to push for a construction bond this November, or postpone it to next May. With over a billion dollars needed to make a dent in decades of deferred maintenance and skipped upgrades – either way, quite frankly, the money would come too late. In Portland’s case, the past few months have unearthed lead in the drinking water, lead in the paint, radon, mold, leaky roofs, seismic shortcomings – you name it.
In the national news, our fair city’s schools have been compared to Flint, MI – which is a fair assessment, I suppose – at least as far as the snowballing of the public goes. But, what baffles me is that this is such a big deal to so many. Old school buildings have issues – everyone knows that… right? What I feel is far more damaging is the sinister truth of what goes on on the inside of the ailing buildings – something that is continuously sanctioned by a lame administration and ditto school board. There are staggering differences in course offerings, enrichments, instructional time, electives, and opportunities – varying from school to school throughout the district. Now, THIS would be something worthy of a major, public hissy-fit. Yet, though we may protest, there is a kind of laissez-faire aura surrounding the powers that be. And, although great strides toward fairer deals and increased educational equity were made via the work of the DBRAC committee these past two years, all those advances currently seem to have taken a backseat to the more tangible facilities issues of lead, mold, and radon.
Do I not agree that a bond is needed? Well, of course I do – it is desperately needed. In fact, we probably need about five of them, portioned out in bitesized chunks, acceptable to a primarily childless voting public. But I find it baffling, and not so little disturbing, that deferred maintenance takes political precedence over the continued, sanctioned sacrifice of generations of kids, and neglect of their educational opportunities. The logic behind that – to me – is a tough one to grasp. The blurred priorities as evidenced by our board, reminded me of some photos I took this past summer, in a hot, humid greenhouse, where both glasses and camera lens fogged up instantly. Try as I might, I could not see clearly. That day, it took stepping out of the situation, cooling off, and taking a new look with refreshed eyes, to see clearly again. I imagine this is what needs to happen here too. Diffusion, distortion and disparity is, quite honestly, the last thing our kiddos need. Wouldn’t you agree?