Dear Portland Friends & Neighbors,
How we fund renovations at four Portland schools, Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot, and Reiche, has been an issue of much debate in the city. After meeting with residents and officials and hearing both sides, I will be voting in favor of the $64 million bond.
But, as we move forward, I would encourage my fellow advocates and activists to not forget the value of civility, cordiality, and candor for those that may not agree with the All Four Schools Now approach. This is an important issue, yes. But it is a single issue and, after all is said and done, we’ll need everyone to come together again to solve the many tough issues that Portland is facing.
That said, this issue is one that hits pretty close to home. I was a student at Reiche in the mid-1990s, before moving to Riverton Park and attending Riverton Elementary. Memories of the concrete ramp and the library, and knowing the diverse student population that it serves now, compels me to help ensure that kids attending all four schools today, and tomorrow, do so in an environment that fosters learning and makes each and every student feel valued.
Infrastructure inequity in our schools affects educational outcomes and student achievement. In a 2014 study published in Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, researchers made two key findings:
“First, the building’s structural facilities profoundly influence learning. Inadequate lighting, noise, low air quality, and deficient heating in the classroom are significantly related to worse student achievement. Over half of U.S. schools have inadequate structural facilities, and students of color and lower income students are more likely to attend schools with inadequate structural facilities. Second, scientific studies reveal the unexpected importance of a classroom’s symbolic features, such as objects and wall décor, in influencing student learning and achievement in that environment. Symbols inform students whether they are valued learners and belong within the classroom, with far-reaching consequences for students’ educational choices and achievement.”
The Portland Press Herald Editorial Board also makes a compelling case, stating:
"It’s not an easy question, but we support the comprehensive four-school bond because it would best meet the needs of both the families who live here now, and the families who would choose to come to Portland in the future because of its schools. Portland will not be able to achieve the kind of growth it needs without a major investment in vital public infrastructure, and that starts with a clear statement of commitment to high-quality neighborhood schools."
This has not been a decision that I have made lightly. I support the All Four Schools Now proposal. However, in moving forward, it is important that we remain cognizant of the impact that this will have on property taxes, the strain it will put on the city budget, impacts on other priorities, such as general assistance for asylum seekers, and the current housing issues the city is struggling with.
Candidate for Portland City Council District 5
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