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Agreement between City and PPS would buffer City arts tax risk for schools

May 13, 2013
Superintendent Carole Smith has outlined a proposed agreement that would allow PPS to put at least a half-time art teacher in every school serving elementary students for the 2013-14 school year, pending resolution of current legal challenges to the City arts tax.

Under the agreement announced at the May 13 School Board meeting, PPS would match the City of Portland’s guarantee of $1.5 million in arts tax funding for PPS, with the commitment of $1.5 million in school district reserves in the event that the City tax is not upheld. The $3 million total would support 30 arts positions in elementary grade schools next year.

For the 2013-14 school year, all 56 schools serving students in grades K-5 will have at least a half-time arts teacher. School district staff and principals are working to determine how the positions will be allocated.

Under an existing intergovernmental agreement, the City of Portland would distribute a total of $4.5 million in arts tax funding to Portland Public Schools for the 2013-14 year, with a first payment of $2.25 expected in November.

Based on that agreement, the superintendent’s proposed 2013-14 budget proposed including 45.5 arts positions in elementary grade schools next year. Under the proposed agreement, staffing arts positions at a level of 30 positions would guarantee arts in all schools. At the same time, it does not commit PPS to a staffing level that would exceed the resources the City and the school district have available to backstop the arts tax while awaiting the outcome of legal challenges.

Superintendent Carole Smith said, “This agreement allows us to honor the will of local voters to support arts teachers in our schools, while sharing the risk with our partners. I appreciate the way Mayor Hales has worked with us to put arts teachers in classrooms, while we look to resolve the uncertainty of this important tool to fund arts in schools for the future.”

Director Trudy Sargent said, “I believe this is a reasonable compromise. The City put it on the ballot, the voters supported it, but we cannot take on the whole risk. This is a good faith effort on our part to implement the promise of the arts tax.”

Portland School Board members directed Superintendent Carole Smith to incorporate the agreement into the budget the school board will vote to approve on Monday, May 20, 2013.

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