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Budget cuts to affect every school and office

June 23, 2010

Superintendent Carole Smith today released $19.4 million in cuts to Portland Public Schools’ proposed 2010-11 budget — roughly 4.3 percent of the PPS general fund budget. Her recommendation to the Portland School Board follows a 9 percent across-the-board reduction in state spending.

In a letter to families, Smith stated, “Over the last 15 years, we have cut budgets repeatedly and tried as much as we can to protect our classrooms, our teaching jobs and our student’s school experience. This year I must recommend difficult cuts that will cost valued employees their jobs and that will be felt at every school, by every student.”

If approved by the board, reductions will include:

Central support and operations: $3.1 million
PPS central services and operations — including administration, finance and payroll, transportation, building maintenance and more — will cut spending on materials and services, as well as reduce staff by the equivalent of 25 full-time positions (or FTE).

Special education and English as a Second Language: $4.6 million
Reductions to these services, staffed centrally but touching all schools and programs, include elimination of the equivalent of 52 full-time teaching positions through shifts in staffing assignments and a delay of program enhancements.

School staffing: $11.6 million
This cut will eliminate the equivalent of 126 teaching positions in PPS schools — further reducing already lean school staffing.

To ensure all students have access to the same core educational program, PPS will provide specific direction on what schools should cut. For grades K-8, the district will take a uniform cut to a common program so that all schools face the same challenges. For example, all schools would cut PE or enrichments and library staffing to maintain greater equity and more consistent programs across schools. The loss of PE instruction by specialists could be mitigated by having classroom teachers lead students in physical activity, or through other strategies. The approach will not be decided and acted upon until the school board provides clear direction. High school staffing also will suffer substantial cuts and significant increases in class sizes, particularly in core classes.

The school district faces a bleak long-term state budget outlook and PPS already plans to tap $16 million in reserves next year. For those reasons, the superintendent and board chose not to pursue one-time fixes such as a shortened school year, unpaid furlough days for staff and continued spending of reserves — instead focusing on actions to reduce costs over several years.

The superintendent also considered freezing employee pay — for some employees for the second straight year. However, the contract with teachers includes a negotiated 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment, and the Portland Association of Teachers declined to reopen that negotiation to consider wage concessions at this time.

The school board meets on Tuesday, June 29, at 6:30 p.m. in the Blanchard Education Service Center, 501 N. Dixon, to hear from the public and approve the direction of the budget. Comments or questions may also be sent by e-mail, to:
SchoolBoard@pps.net
CaroleSmith@pps.net

After taking comments, the board hopes to come to agreement on budget balancing plans so that the superintendent and staff may more forward with the reductions. The Portland School Board will formally vote on the budget amendments at its July 19 regular board meeting.

Go to the Budget Documents page.

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