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Rodents, no running water, old decaying schools. It may sound like a third world country, but in Tacoma, it s reality.

The campaign, Renew our Commitment, Vote Yes on Prop 1, aims to change that.

A $500 million bond issue will upgrade safety and renovate 14 schools in desperate need of repair.

The measure goes before voters on Feb. 12 in a special election.

We re really hoping the voters come through, said Courtney O Catherine.

O Catherine is a teacher at Grant Center for the Expressive Arts; her daughter is also a student there.

You don t reach into a dark place without checking first, she said.

The school was built in 1919.

Its prison windows, they re blocked off, they can t see outside, there s no light, she said.

We re really hoping Prop. 1 passes, said Jennifer Cooper, the school s principal.

According to Cooper, water fountains are broken, ceilings leak and parts of the playground are unsafe. Some classrooms don t have running water or control over the temperature inside. While teachers and staff do their best to make students comfortable, the problems persist.

There s only so many times you can put the Band-Aid on and then what are we going to do when we ve done this, 20, 30, 40, 50 times, said Cooper.

Prop. 1 supporters have a tough task. Voters overwhelmingly rejected similar bonds in 2006 and 2009.

We are not settling for where we ve been in the past, we are going to be on a relentless pursuit to improve education and the quality of life for everyone in Tacoma, said Josh Garcia, District Deputy Superintendent.

O Catherine is hopeful voters will have a change of heart. Her daughter Eleanor depends on it.

She deserves as much as any kid out there, she said.

According to the campaign, if the bond is passed, the average cost to homeowners is $58.24 a year.

A series of public open houses are scheduled for people to learn more about Prop 1. The first is at Tacoma s Wilson High School, Monday night at 6 p.m.

In addition to Tacoma, Seattle, Puyallup, South Kitsap and several other school districts will have similar measures on the Feb. 12 special election ballot.

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