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Superintendent proposes 2012-13 budget

April 02, 2012

Superintendent Carole Smith has proposed a 2012-13 budget that offsets a $27.5 million general fund shortfall with reductions in school staffing that will affect class sizes and course offerings; deep cuts to central academic and operational supports; and the use of reserves.

Comment on the proposal

UPDATED 4/13/12

Watch a replay of comments on the proposed budget this week.

Email a comment to the school board.

Superintendent Smith also recommended the closure and consolidation of programs at two schools that do not have sufficient enrollment to provide core academic offerings without a significant staffing subsidy.

The superintendent’s proposal, which she presented April 2 to the Portland School Board, preserves full-day kindergarten and current kindergarten class sizes, and makes targeted investments in other high-leverage strategies.

The superintendent said the budget shortfall is the result of both state funding levels not keeping up with the increased cost of doing business and the impact of the economy on local option collections. Noting that nearly every other school district in the state faces similar budget choices, she said, “Our budget situation is not just a Portland problem, it is an Oregon problem.”

The anticipated revenue for the 2012-13 general fund budget is $455.7 million. But to maintain current levels of programs — based on a 3 percent estimated increase in overall costs — the district would need $483.2 million next year. As a result, PPS is facing a $27.5 million gap. The district also is anticipating a $6 million reduction in federal Title I funding to high-poverty schools.

Priorities and input shape budget

Smith's strategies to close the gap were shaped by several work sessions with the school board, and from the input of principals and other district staff, discussions with employee association leaders and public listening sessions.

Based on this feedback, the budget was developed according to the following principles:

  • Focus resources closest to students.
  • Differentiate resources to support highest-need learners and schools, using an equity lens.
  • Leverage community partnerships.
  • Make strategic choices, rather than spreading cuts across the board.

Drawing on reserves

The proposed budget draws on $7.2 million from reserves, leaving $15 million in unobligated contingency funds. This is 3.5 percent of the proposed school district budget, down from the current level of 5 percent but above the level required by school board policy.

Reductions to school programs

Under the proposed budget, schools would receive a total reduction slightly more than $10 million — the equivalent of 110 teaching positions. As a result, student-staff ratios would significantly increase:

  • K-5 schools – Change from 25-to-1 student-staff ratio to 27-1. Kindergarten ratios would remain at 25-1.
  • PK-8 and middle schools – Change from 24.24-to-1 student-staff ratio to 26-1.
  • High schools – Change from 29-1 student-staff ratio to 31.3-1.

In recent years, PPS has defined core program requirements across elementary and middle grades and in high schools as part of a districtwide effort to deliver more equitable programs at all schools and prepare students to graduate ready for college and career.

Under the proposed budget, schools would continue to build their class schedules to deliver these core offerings. However, all schools might not be able to deliver them, given budget constraints. Principals could seek temporary waivers from core program requirements, based on select criteria.

The budget also contains other educational program recommendations:

  • Title I eligibility – Elementary and middle schools would need 60 percent or more students eligible for free or reduced-price meals to receive federal Title I funds. However, Title I schools would continue to offer free full-day kindergarten because of the long-lasting educational benefits.
  • Outdoor School – PPS will have less money available next year to purchase services from Multnomah County Education Services District. The budget does not propose using general funds or resolution dollars to fund Outdoor School next year.

Furloughs require agreement

Of 14 school districts in the metropolitan area, PPS is one of only four that has not cut school days within the past three years. School district leaders have asked the Portland Association of Teachers to consider the option of taking furlough days next year to offset cuts to school staffing and to avoid an increase in student-staff ratios. Under the terms of the current contract, the association is not required to come to an agreement about furlough days or a shortened school year. Discussions are continuing.

School consolidation and program closure

Based on the depth of reductions to school staff, the superintendent recommends the consolidation of Humboldt PK-8 School with Boise-Eliot PK-8 School and the closure of the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, which serves grades 6-12. Enrollment at both Humboldt and the Young Women’s Leadership Academy cannot support access to core academic offerings without a subsidy of teaching positions, which the school district can no longer afford.

Central office cuts

The proposed budget reduces $9.5 million from central academic and operational support budgets, including the elimination of 34 positions. Reductions also include a $3.5 million decrease in facilities capital spending, primarily because work centered on the closure of Marshall High School and other projects has been completed. Textbook and curriculum material costs will be reduced by $1.2 million.


Even at a time of deeper and more difficult cuts, the budget proposes investments in high-leverage strategies designed to produce better outcomes for students. Highlights of these investments include:

  • Teacher evaluation – The budget invests in new tools to improve reliability in the district's updated teacher evaluation system, which was developed in collaboration with the Portland Association of Teachers. This investment would help ensure greater consistency in evaluation results across schools.
  • Online learning – The budget would improve online learning programs by adding highly qualified teachers to current credit recovery programs. Online offerings would be expanded for special populations, and more opportunities offered for course credit recovery, credit proficiency or content recovery.
  • Immersion – Given the demand for immersion programs, the school district would develop new immersion programs, including a new Spanish immersion strand at Scott K-8 School.
  • Math and reading support – The district would continue to invest in funding the implementation of common core standards through universal screening tools for literacy and mathematics.
  • Culturally specific family engagement – Included among the investments is the expansion of the work of partner organizations that can help families build stronger relationships with schools as well as meet a full range of family needs.

Call to action

The reductions come as PPS schools have produced significant educational gains, and narrowed achievement gaps, at important educational milestones in the past two years. These gains include better outcomes in: early reading, middle-grade writing and algebra, and 10th-graders on track to graduate. This year, PPS posted a 5 percent gain in the overall graduation rate. Yet further budget reductions, following successive years of reductions, threaten the school district’s continued academic progress.

Superintendent Smith urged state leaders to find a solution to the challenges confronting Oregon’s schools: “As a state, we must commit to a different approach to funding education in alignment with the outcomes we want for every student. … We cannot continue to build a vision for education in the 21st century while we dismantle the foundation of our educational system every year.”

The school board will hold public hearings on the proposed budget on:

  • April 9 at 5 p.m. at Cleveland High School, 3400 S.E. 26th Ave.
  • April 11 at 6 p.m. at Roosevelt High School, 6491 N. Central St.

Interpretation services will be provided.

Audio clips of Superintendent Carole Smith's message Clip 1

Clip 2

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