Voters approve $790 million Portland Public Schools bond

Voters approve $790 million Portland Public Schools bond

Voters on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a $790 million construction bond that would modernize four schools and fund fixes to a slew of safety hazards in nearly every Portland school.

The win closes out a painful year of transition for Portland Public Schools that came to a head just weeks prior to the crucial vote. On May 4, a single day's news included the resignation of the human resources director, a $1 million jury verdict against the district for racial harassment, an apology for a math error that caused a lucrative contract to be erroneously awarded, and the implosion of the superintendent search.

A feeling of palpable relief filled the room when news of the clear victory broke at campaign headquarters. Cheers erupted and the crowd of about 100 started wildly hugging as "This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)" played.

"We're excited that the board is going to have a fresh start soon, with new members and a new superintendent," said Ben Katz, field director for the campaign. "We just want folks to support their schools. Everybody had their education paid for by somebody. It's a generational responsibility."

The vote follows a 2012 victory for the district, when voters overwhelmingly passed a $482 million bond.

According to returns tallied as of 3 a.m. Wednesday, 66 percent voted for the bond and 34 percent were opposed.

The bond is part of a 30-50 years-long strategy of successive bond measures to modernize all 90-plus of its school buildings, which average about 70 years old. That's because needed seismic work is expensive. District officials say extensive overhauls and rebuilds are the best way to address the fact that schools are woefully unprepared to withstand an earthquake.

This bond would fund remodels of Madison and Benson high schools, and build brand new Lincoln High and Kellogg Middle School.