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Bite the bullet

The final amount of the Salem-Keizer School District’s Bond Measure was not grabbed out of thin air. It was not decided on in a vacuum. School bonds are serious business; members of the committee that established the amount needed and the members of the school bond take their duties very seriously. They all know they will hear from the public if they are being reckless with the public’s money.

The school bond comes in at $619.7 million, that is $1.24 per $1,000 of assessed property value, or about $248 per year for a home valued at $200,000. That may seem like a lot especially since voters approved a $250 million bond ten years ago—that bond was for improvements and new schools.

Voters in the Salem-Keizer School District should bite the bullet and vote for the bond measure on the ballot that begin arriving in voter’s mailboxes this week.

The $619.7 amount was discussed by the bond committee at various open houses and hearings. The school board held hearings before moving forward to putting the measure on the May ballot. The Salem-Keizer School District has a strong history of communicating with the public about its budgetary needs. Using the web, email, Facebook, newspapers and more, the district leaves no stone unturned when it comes to explaining to tax payers why this, or any other bond measure, is important to the education of our kids.

The cost of education is not just for instruction, it also includes extracurrilar activities and infrastructure. Where students learn is as important as what they learn. First, there should be enough space for the students. Second, the space should be sufficient and efficient for its task. Third, the space should be safe from both natural and man-made disasters.

Those things are what the $619.7 million will pay for. While it does not fund salaries, the money will create an environment for learning that will benefit teachers and students alike.

Every two years the Oregon legislature makes decisions that affect every school district in the state. With a biennial budget of almost $80 billion, educators must fight for every scrap of its 11 percent of the budget. This is no way to serve our children. Educating our kids is a paramount duty—it is a duty we, the people, assigned our public school systems. Unless the people decide that there should be no public schools, only private, we have the education system we have and we fund it the way we have for decades.

The reality is that a million dollars isn’t what it used to be. Economics has devalued the worth of a million dollars—these days $1 billion is used like $1 million was 20 years ago. Everything is relative.

Modern life is not inexpensive. It takes real money to operate the things that comprise a good quality of life and that includes good schools. Just as we desire pothole-free streets, we also desire quality institutions of learning that are not crowded, that meet the needs of all those who attend there.

Until we the people and they the legislators demand a better, consistent source of money for K-12 education in Oregon, we will have to take matters in our own hands and tax ourselves to have the schools we deserve.

That’s why voters should bite the bullet and say yes to Measure 24-429, the $619.7 million Salem-Keizer School District bond.