Why students are for fixing Portland schools - and why we're singing about it

By Nadia Ahmad of Portland Oregon. Nadia is junior at Cleveland High School, working to help pass the bond and levy package for Portland Public Schools.

I'm helping the Portland school bond campaign because I'm tired of seeing asbestos caution signs in my classrooms and being in a history class with 45 students. I hope my sister will get schools with no asbestos and some modern technology.

A bunch of my friends wrote and performed for this video about the school bond because it seemed like a great way to show what's going on at our schools in the city.

Here's to hoping that everyone votes YES and that more people use videos like these to reach a new generation of voters about voting, getting involved, and whatever else.

I know a lot of smart people are trying to figure out how to reach people like me - soon-to-be young voter that doesn't ever watch the 11 o'clock news or read political blogs.

If you're trying to reach us, use things like this. My friends loved this video and while all of us rapping about our oil boilers catching on fire and tiles that fall from the ceiling might not work for our parents and our grandparents, it works for people like me.

Share our video!

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    Obviously, the students have ambition and intelligence. We need to support them by providing them with the best possible foundation for learning and support the bond measure in May.

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    This video is awesome! what a bunch of talented kids :)

    But seriously, now is the time to fix our schools, before a boiler fire or an earthquake actually happens.

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      I couldn't agree more, this is obviously a plugged in group of students. They need buildings that aren't falling apart and reasonable class room sizes!

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    What an awesome way to address such an important issue! I hope we all vote Yes for our schools, so our students have SAFE and up to date learning environments.

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    This is so cool!

    It's appalling to see the state that our schools are in, and it's wonderful that these students were able to articulate those problems in a such a creative and fun way!

    I think that kids' safety and a quality education is something we call can agree on. I'll certainly be voting for both the bond and the levy!

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    This video is awesome! I wish my Grant high friends would do the same thing with me. Grant high also has holes in the walls and leaking roofs so please vote for this measure.

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    Nice job everyone :)

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    This video shows that our kids are aware of how their schools are crumbling. And that they are awesomely talented.

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    Epic work! I think it says something when people see so much engagement from students who this effects so greatly! This is a real issue, effecting real people. Keep up the awesome work! Education is one of our most important assets!

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    Awesome video. I will now vote for this measure with the song going in the background. Lets not give up on the future, vote yes!

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    Awesome video. VOTE YES! Go Portland Public Schools!

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    What a great video! Cool kids and cool campaign... now is the time to show our community support for education and the youngest Oregonians.

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    What. Up. I knocked on doors for this effort last weekend and often I watched people weigh the costs. Why is it worth it? These kids are why. Great video!

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    And there are Republican political leaders who don't believe in tax supported universal education. The GOP in Oregon worships Don McIntire, and he would tell these kids to forget about schools and education. The only thing he believes in is more dollars for wealthy people.

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    Great video! Great students!

    But, sorry, I’m a no voter and campaigner, not because the buildings don’t need updating. They do. But the sequencing is wrong. It will do little good to upgrade the buildings if the programs remain second-rate and not up to the challenges the future will bring. And yes, as the students say, it is about “change” and the “future.”

    The educational status-quo in Portland is not preparing today’s students for the future world they are going to live in. In particular, Portland Public Schools and the Portland Association of Teachers have refused to support expanding the Mandarin immersion programs or creating a high school study abroad program (paying the same for a student to study abroad as for a year in a Portland classroom). Neither issue is trivial.

    As I say on my own blog (here), “Do Not Fund an Outdated, Inadequate, and Inefficient School System. Change it First!”

    I’d feel better about our next generations if they understood their future challenges and were making videos demanding high school study abroad programs.

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      At last, a rational voice. The usual suspects - Trade Unions / Public Employee unions etc.. are backing this with the usual scare the hell out of parents with the usual dire warnings of the end of western civilization. Oh and BTW if you disagree, your either a greedy republican or a racial biget.

      In reality, after last years INCOME TAX HIKES, the fact that they ( the Dems and their associated funding agents - aka civil servant unions )want more is simply amazing.

      I think this time, people are going to say no. I certainly will be.

      How dare you fools ask for more money to flow to the unions..

      How dare you fools ask for more money to flow to the businesses that are dependent on goverment contracts...

      How dare you scare people with acrefully crafted meassaging that highlights the worst of the worst...

      God and you fools wonder why companies are not expanding operations in Oregon and complain when they move to Vancouver..

      Naive fools...

      Please forgive the spelling as this was done on my Iphone.

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    These kids are our future! Don't they deserve to have the best education and facilities possible? Or was that just for the kids in the 60's and 70's? If we invest in kids now, it will pay all tenfold later down the road.

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    Why wasn't the cost of school building upgrades and maintenance included in the last 30 years of state budgeting? Or was it and the money was then simply diverted to fund other new programs like is happening with a lot of government today? As usual, the "brilliance" of government bureaucracy continues to shine, creating one "crisis" after another because of out of control spending. The money is there to fix the buildings already. It will just take financial fortitude and some financial reforms that Salem never wants to make, just like what is going on in DC. Many people are tired of school bureaucrats using kids as a pawn to sell this crap. Get your financial house in order, make the necessary cuts and fix the buildings. Asking for a tax hike in the face of a 61 billion dollar state budget that included 3.8 billion in new taxes and fees in the new bienneum is obsecene and appalling. This school levy is asking for 500 million dollars plus a 57 million increase in operating revenue which amounts to a property tax increase of 74 cents per thousand of assessed value. The result will be an average home whose taxes are $3,000 per year will increase by 19% to $3,570 dollars. Yet the requested money is only 8/10ths of 1% of the states operating budget of 61 billion dollars. If it isn't protocaol for the state to spend money on school building maintenance, its time to make it the states business. We pay enough taxes as citizens of this state. To the school bureaucrats: Get real and talk to the Kitz, since he is so high on the education thing. Time to make some choices, not hound and pimp citizens for more money using these kids as your pawn. That is a very transparent trick.

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    Great job on putting together a video which speaks to everyone (especially the young future leaders of Oregon) about investing in good teachers and schools that are safe!

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    Absolutely outstanding! Either we pay for necessary upgrades now, or we pay for them when the cost for steel/gas/labor is far higher. Either way, we need to pay for them. Take the plunge now, and our students, our economy and our community are revitalized...It's the best vote we've been able to make in years...

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    Kristin: I agree. Lets take that plunge, cut the states budget by 8/10ths of 1% and use the money to fix the schools. Other school upgrades could then occur as well in other cities at a lesser cost without raising taxes. Isn't that wonderful?? :)

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    If only that would fix the problem. We could all probably get elected, go on town to Salem and figure out what to cut. Social services? More out of education? Public Safety? Armchair governing is always so easy....

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    Kristin: I gotta better solution. A painless, across the board cut that equals 8/10ths of 1% of the budget.There were 3.8 billion in new taxes passed recently by the legislature, in which, the 500 million request for schools is only 13% of that increase, so in reality, even if Salem gave the Portland schools the whole 500 million, their budget still grows by 5% in the current biennium, and is only down 3 billion from record revenues of 68.9 billion just before the market crash. State government agencies are not going to be in any sort of bad way to do this. The money is there, it is a matter of priorities, and what is outrageous is that the school district has the nerve to ask voters to approve a whopping property tax increase at a time when most homeowners can least afford it. I'd say its time for Salem and state government to "give back" to the community and follow the same advice progressives give to individuals....:)

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      Chuck, you're as smart about public finance as you are about climate change.

      You can't look at the all-funds budget. The vast majority of funds that pass through state government are dedicated fees that are paid for specific services - and monies that come from the federal government for specific purposes and are merely administered by the state.

      For example, gas taxes are dedicated to highways. I suspect you'd be one of the first to scream if those monies were diverted to some other program in state government.

      I suggest reading the relatively straightforward summary of state finances in the Oregon Blue Book.

      A few highlights:

      • "The 2009–11 Legislatively Approved Budget included approximately $13.4 billion in the General Fund for a 22.2 percent share of the total budget. The General Fund is largely made up of personal and corporate income taxes..."

      • "The 2009–11 Legislatively Approved Budget included $1 billion of expenditures from the Lottery Fund, which is about 1.7 percent of the total budget."

      Note that these two pots of money are the places that you could grab money to pay for schools. The problem? 40% already goes to K-12. 13% goes to higher ed and other education. 24% goes to health care programs. 13% goes to public safety. The last 10% -- just $1.4 billion -- is EVERYTHING ELSE you think of as state government.

      • "The 2009–11 Legislatively Approved Budget included $30.1 billion in Other Funds for a 49.7 percent share of the total budget. Other Funds revenue generally refers to money collected by agencies in return for services. ... Other Funds may not be moved from one major program to another."

      • "The 2009–11 Legislatively Approved Budget included $16 billion in Federal Funds for a 26.5 percent share of the total budget. Federal Funds are monies received from the federal government. Federal Funds increased substantially in 2009–11 due to infusions of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus funds. These are expected to be one-time funds and therefore they will decrease in the 2011–13 biennium. The Legislative Assembly may authorize receipt of Federal Funds for specific purposes. Federal Funds may be used to match General Fund dollars, used for specific programs, or passed through to local governments."

      So, if you were going to suggest that the state government pick up the entire $500 million request for Portland schools, you'd be talking about either a 35% cut to "all other state government services"; or an 8% cut to public safety, health care, and those other programs; or, most insanely, a cut of 3.5% cut of the entire general fund -- effectively transferring money from non-Portland schools to Portland.

      Is that really what you want?

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    Kari, I wish I could "like" your comment dozens of times...

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    Kari: Your comments above are as disengenuous as a used car sales huckster dressed in a buttercarch houndstooth pimpcheck suit with a bridge to sell a buyer in Philly.

    So a certain part of the budget is "locked up" and can't be used for this purpose other than the "service, tax or fee" that it was adminstered under. Hmm. if I remember correctly, the purpose of lottery funding at inception was to be an Economic Development Fund that attracted business to the state. So how is PERS found dipping into it and funding the public employee retirement system using up to 64% of proceeds to date? How about Oregon State Police dipping into Oregon's gas tax when that is dedicated to roads? What about lottery funds being tapped for the insane light rail projects and urban renewal, as well as the health care, public safety and host of other junkets? How do they define "attracting economic development"? What about the 260 million dollar slush fund that is currently available for use but the OEA demands it be spent elsewhere?

    What about Sam Adams and his billiant idea to take "dedicated" Portland Water Bureau money and give it kids for college scholarships?

    The Kitz just hired 6000 more public employees and frittered away a part of the 3.8 billion in new tax revenue even though he could have used it for school repairs.

    Speaking of "dedicated" funding, are you aware that education has no line item to differentiate money that is spent on schools and students vs. public employee retirements and pensions? Yeah, PERS is funded under "education" but yet sucks up 64% of current lottery proceeds. Isn't that double dipping? Isn't that supposed to be prohibited the way you see things? There is no question that is why it costs $12,500 dollars per student per year to educate a child from K1-12 in Oregon,Slick, huh?

    Then there is this: http://oregoncatalyst.com/3745-Deconstructing-the-State-Budget-Myths.html

    And this: http://oregoncatalyst.com/3536-The-Oregon-Budget-Unavoidable-Choices-Unwilling-Choosers.html

    It is obvious how this works. The Kitz, like you, takes a huge slice of revenue pie and calls it off limits to redistributing ( even though that's exactly what he does with education and a host of other programs ) and then takes cuts that are actually miniscule, and calls them draconian when the percentages are artificially inflated by taking a significant portion of revenue "offline" and making the reductions calculate on the remainder and then through baseline budgeting (calling reductions in increases cuts when they are actually still increases) adds to the "cutting" figures giving the appearance of economic disaster if new taxes aren't imposed.

    Kari, this is more BS, smoke and mirrors and anyone with a half a brain can see it. The money is there to fix the bulidings, but no political leadership to spend it wisely. We will soon be another Wisconsin.

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    @ Kari, about climate, I'll discuss it with you anytime,in any forum. You havve no scientific measurements to back up your claims and in fact the data has caused thenm to self implode. Your reduction strategies and championing of carbon taxes can also easily be shown to be frivolous artifacts of reality that will accomplish absolutely nothing in terms of their stated objectives.

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