Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Portland Public Schools' Bond Measure

I largely agree with the spin PPS is putting on its proposed $548 million bond measure: investments in schools are good for economies, communities and property values.

But I have one question: nowhere in the coverage of this proposal have I heard a single thing about what I have been assuming is the number one priority in terms of PPS's facilities need - making sure that most school buildings don't fall down upon Portland's children when the big earthquake hits - so what gives?

From academic literature we know that making schools fancier is not going to help student performance substantially other than perhaps attracting and keeping good students (peer effects are huge).  So, if I am thinking about priorities, the fact that we are due for a major earthquake that could cause devastating structural failures makes me think I would rather ensure kids safety first.

The fact that this is not being mentioned at all makes me suspect that PPS does not want to have this discussion at the same time.  But they should.  It is all about marginal benefit and marginal cost.


ben said...

The PPS school system is about as broken as it gets. The Portland Bond measure is a way they can repair schools and continue to pay teachers. This is more of a preemptive way to deal with the next round of state budget cuts. Push the repairs onto the populace, use the state funds to pay the teachers.

BJCefola said...

It's incredible to me that the infrastructure spending was not more front and center when PPS was debating high school reform. Not only the obvious trade (cost of rehabbing Jefferson vs keeping Marshall) but also the earthquake angle. There are not many ways to make parents happy their kid's school is closing, making the case that the new school will come through an earthquake like Chile instead of Haiti is one of them (at least for me).

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