Another Viewpoint: ‘I authored Question 5, and I’m asking you to vote YES’

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I’m passionate about public education because of my mother. Her nonstop advocacy for children inspired me to run for the Charter Commission. 

I chaired the Commission’s Education Committee and authored Question 5.

Question 5 is about Portland better prioritizing children and public schools.

My fellow Commissioner Marpheen Chann may have said it the best in explaining his support for the amendment that became Question 5.

Marpheen said that when he was in school, he had learned a Greek proverb: A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.

He said that, in this case, with this Charter amendment, public education is the tree and how our city will grow great.

I, too, believe that. Great schools would make Portland a great city.

But, right now, our city government is not structured to prioritize public education.

It’s a function of an outdated way of thinking: that only city councilors — largely white men — could weigh budget decisions. And that voters couldn’t be trusted when it came to money.

Question 5 moves us past that narrow thinking. It ends the city council’s consideration of the school budget.

If the ballot question passes, the elected school board will determine the school budget and send it to the voters to approve or reject. This is the model used in more than 90 percent of Maine communities. In total, elected school boards serving 446 Maine communities have school budget autonomy, including 315 cities and towns that are part of regional school units or school administrative districts and town meeting towns. School boards serving just 31 Maine charter municipalities lack budget autonomy.

Question 5 puts school budget decisions in the hands of the elected body that knows the needs of our students and schools. 

It will make the school budget process more democratic, efficient, accessible, and accountable. And voters will have the final say each year, meaning that everyday Portlanders, like you and me, will be the ultimate check on the school board.

Please join with me in voting “yes” on Question 5. Together, let’s make Portland a great city.

Marcques Houston represented District 4 on the Charter Commission and chaired its Education Committee. He’s now helping to lead Yes for Schools, the organization formed to back Question 5.


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