More classes for students, more teachers in schools

May 6, 2013: I want to bring you up to date on PPS’ budget for the coming school year and how we will offer more classes for students and put more teachers in schools next year, within our current constraints.

Over the past few weeks, many people have testified about next year’s proposed budget. We’ve heard support for putting more staff into schools where students have been underserved in the past. We’ve also heard frustration from parents about school cuts and limitations, especially from high school parents.

At a time when state leaders are working to increase state funding for schools, we are still feeling the impact of federal education cuts and other factors. One-third of our schools are still projected to lose at least a portion of a teaching position next year.

More classes for high school students

We all want more classes, enrichments, support and opportunities for Portland’s students. Over the past two weeks I have been talking with parents and school board members about how we can increase the number of staff we are adding to schools.

For next year, I am proposing to add 58 more teaching positions to our high schools. That investment will give every comprehensive and focus high school the ability to provide all students access to at least 7 classes.

I am encouraged that we are able to increase our investment in high schools at the same time that we are maintaining key priorities, including:

  • A new equity formula, which provides all high schools with additional staff to improve outcomes for students who have been underserved, would remain in place. In public testimony, parents have voiced strong support for the equity investment proposed in this budget.
  • Proposed staffing levels in elementary and middle grades.
  • Strategic investments to improve our graduation rate.

We are able to make this investment by giving high schools additional teachers we usually set aside to address unexpected enrollment issues in the fall. We are also scaling back targeted investments in online learning and other priorities, and redirecting administrative support for high schools into classrooms.

We will continue our dialogue with teachers to lift the constraints that prevent many students from taking 8 classes.

More teachers in schools

For next year, we are fortunate to be able to add 81 positions to all our schools. In addition, we will be able to preserve 110 teaching positions we have in schools this year, which were threatened by the loss of one-time measures (including $5 million in support from the City of Portland, furloughs for non-represented staff and a delayed step increase for teachers).

We are able to make these investments through community support of local funding measures that put teachers in our classrooms. Parent generosity and long hours of volunteering have bridged the gap for schools year in and year out.

Increased state funding does not mean adequate state funding. We are still a long way from building back all the programs that students deserve. And the Legislature still has not approved a final school budget. While we are adding teachers and proposing more classes in high school, our budget depends on state leaders delivering on their commitments to schools.

I strongly encourage you continue to contact your legislators to advocate for increase funding for schools.

I appreciate all the parents and community members who have offered input on our school budget. We will keep working with parents, teachers and state legislators to continue to provide more classes and programs for Portland’s students.

Carole Smith
PPS superintendent