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Better funding means more teachers

January 27, 2014
Kindergarten and first grade students at Faubion School use IPads.
Kindergarten and first grade students at Faubion School use IPads.

The Portland School Board on Jan. 27 approved the addition of $19.6 million to the school district budget that is being spent this school year and next, primarily to support teachers and lower class size. In addition, PPS has forecasted a budget surplus for 2014-15 for the first time in a decade that will also be used to hire more teachers.

The $19.6 million was mostly due to budget savings - including such factors as lower utility costs, public employee retirement system (PERS) savings, and increased federal reimbursement – and increased local property tax collection.

The school board approved a plan for using the money over two years - this school year (2013-14) and next.Featured in PPS Pulse

Additions this school year

PPS is spending $8.6 million to expand staffing and programs this year. Most of these additions were made when the dollars became available in October to benefit students for the full school year. Additions include:

  • The equivalent of 30 teaching positions in schools ($3.0 million).
  • Half-time classified positions (such as educational assistants) in 68 schools ($1.7 million)
  • Increased support for athletics ($900,000).
  • Expand career coordinators in high schools ($250,000).
  • Hire an ombudsman to resolve parent complaints ($100,000).
  • Fund restorative justice programs to facilitate resolution of student discipline issues and reduce out-of-school suspensions and expulsions ($400,000).
  • Expand high school strategies to improve student achievement and graduation rates.

The budget amendment also approved $3.5 million to complete the expansion of instructional technology for teachers, paid for by tranferring money into the Information Technology capital funds.

Additions next school year

PPS will use the remaining money in 2014-15 to continue supporting the staff and programs added this year and will also bring on additional school staff to reduce class size and better support teachers.

In the meantime, the remainder of the $19.6 million is added to the district's reserves, temporarily increasing reserves to $34.2 million.

Budget surplus forcasted for 2014-15

The school board also got a first look at the overall revenue picture for the school district in 2014-15.

Even after paying to sustain this year's added staff and programs next year, PPS forecasts a $15.7 million budget surplus. The surplus is based on increased revenues - including added dollars approved by the state Legislature - and reduced expenses.

The surplus represents the first positive budget outlook that Portland Public Schools has projected at the outset of the budget process in a decade.

Surplus intended to lower class size

A large portion of next year’s budget surplus has been committed during on-going negotiations with the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT), or to expand investments in current priorities:

  • Increase school staffing and reduce teacher work load: In current contract negotiations with PAT, PPS has committed $7.8 million next year to add approximately 88 new PAT members to reduce work load across grade levels. The school district would also commit an additional $2 million to increase planning time in elementary grades and address individual teacher work load issues.
  • Add school days: PPS would use $2 million of our projected surplus to add instructional days to the school year for students, in keeping with the legislature’s intent.
  • Targeted investments: The school district would allocate an additional $3.8 million to district-wide programs that will, for example, expand dual-language immersion programs, rebuild high school athletics and support efforts to accelerate gains in Portland’s graduation rate.

The $15.7 million surplus accounts for a 3 percent increase in costs next year and it assumes a 5 percent level of reserves, to protect against any unexpected drops in school funding.

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