Astoria school boosters have formed a political action committee to stump for a $70 million bond package in November to improve schools.
While school district employees can provide objective information, they cannot advocate for a bond measure. Yes for Astoria Kids is led by David Oser, an Astoria School Board member who recently retired from nonprofit lender Craft3, and Skip Hauke, a former business owner who recently retired from the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce.
A bond voters passed in 2000 to build Lewis and Clark Elementary School and improve three other campuses is set to expire in 2020. In anticipation of another bond, the school district has spent the past year studying options.
A facilities committee has recommended a $70 million bond to build a new three-story classroom wing at Astoria Middle School, a 50-year-old campus relatively untouched by the 2000 bond, while modernizing infrastructure and enhancing campus security throughout the school district. The school board will likely vote in July to go out for the bond in the November election.
Craig Hoppes, the superintendent in Astoria, said the new taxes from the bond would not take effect until the district’s previous bond expires. He estimated the new bond could increase the taxes of district residents by $1 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Oser said there appears to be support for the new bond, but that boosters will focus on winning over younger voters to augment the older voters who usually dominate elections.
“It’s more of a get out the vote campaign than a go out and change people’s minds campaign,” Oser said.
The political action committee will look to raise between $20,000 and $25,000 to fund advertisements and other activities, he said, while gathering a core group of volunteers.
The school district recently polled potential voters. While they generally supported the district and a bond, there was a lack of understanding around the issues facing the middle school, the district’s highest-priority need. The school, built on filled-in land, has faced settling and cracks in the foundation. Staff have complained of undersized, antiquated classrooms, many without windows.
There will be tours, photos and video to publicize the issues with the middle school, and how a modernized classroom wing with more natural light and better ventilation can help improve academic performance, Oser said.
“A capital bond like this is really the only mechanism we have to improve the learning environment and the physical plant,” Oser said. “There’s no money to do more than the most ordinary sort of maintenance.”
Warrenton-Hammond School District is preparing for a $32.4 million bond measure in November. Mark Jeffery, the superintendent in Warrenton, said there have been conversations of a political action committee but no PAC has formed.