(Story and image from Oregonlive.com)
A 9 percent increase in staffing is in the planning phase. Officials hope that the changes will be instituted in the next school year under a new budget proposed by Superintendent Carole Smith. The chief of Oregon’s largest school district, Smith proposed a spending plan of about $505 million on Monday, an approximate $41 million more than current spending levels.
“This proposal represents a significant reinvestment in Portland’s schools and is my first budget message where we are able to strategically invest without simultaneously cutting programs,” said Smith to the board on Monday. May 19 is the proposed primary voting date, with a final vote is scheduled for June 23.
Smith touted a plan to add more than 180 full-time positions across the district, including 150 teachers, as well as two extra school days.
The 150 full-time teaching positions stemmed from a deal struck with the Portland Association of Teachers during a protracted labor dispute. Those teachers will include 70 elementary school teachers, 50 high school teachers and 30 special education teachers.
Smith noted that her proposed budget would improve staff-to-student ratios on every level next year:
- K-5 schools: 26.9 students per educator to 25.8 students per educator
- K-8 schools: 25.6 students per educator to 24 students per educator
- Middle schools: 25.25 students per educator to 24.75 students per educator
- High schools: 25.72 per educator to 23.65 students per educator
The extra staffing would cost about $12.8 million, and the instructional time would cost approximately $2.55 million.
The school board had few comments on the budget. Board member Tom Koehler said he was ready to study the plan.
“I’m looking forward to delving in,” he said. “It’s good to have increased resources.”
Board member Steve Buel said it was a “good start,” but said there were still a lot of questions left to be answered.
The proposed budget rankled more than 30 parents from Southeast Portland’s Llewellyn School who showed to the meeting. The school is slated to lose less than half of a full-time teaching position next year.
Those parents said they were worried their children would have to go through multiple years of elementary school classes with more than 30 students. Others worried that the new staffing ratios showed high schoolers faring better than elementary schools.
David Wynde, the deputy chief financial officer of the district, confirmed that Llewellyn was one of nine schools that would see lower staffing numbers next year. He noted the school would have fewer students, which is why the school would see staffing reductions.
But parents said the lost positions would make a big impact at the school, which has to pay a teacher with donations to its school foundation.
“We’re getting cuts while everyone else is adding teachers,” said Dan Richardson, who serves as a secretary for Llewellyn School’s parent-teacher organization.
Other big changes next year include an early learning center at Clarendon School, a building that was closed in 2007.
Smith proposed putting $481,000 toward staffing, operations and supplies for the center. She also wanted to put $164,000 for a Head Start director and $160,000 to create a director of early learning.