Expected enrollment drop next year could impact staffing for Portland Public Schools

Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 11:37 AM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Portland Public Schools is expecting a big drop in enrollment next year, which may cost the district state dollars and impact staffing in the near future.

More than 3,000 students are expected to leave the district next school year, which brings about an 8% drop in enrollment. The district said enrollment has been dropping since last school year, but it has managed to keep staffing at pre-pandemic levels.

Now, that could all be changing.

The district said it’s expecting to make a 4% cut to staffing next school year. The district said if they don’t adjust staffing, their general fund will be in a financial deficit by 2024. That fund is used to pay the salaries of its staff members.

Elizabeth Thiel, president of the Portland Association of Teachers, spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting. She pushed back against the idea that lower enrollment means less money.

Thiel believes the district is likely to see an increase in state funding next year because the state just announced an $800 million increase in revenue. She said she believes schools will get a cut of that.

Thiel said cutting staff, including teachers, would be harmful to students, especially those in classes with a high ratio of students. She suggests the district should instead focus on making its class sizes smaller.

“The combination of lower enrollment, stable school funding from local and state sources, and $120 million in federal relief funding means that we have the resources necessary to give our students what they need: more individual attention from their teachers, calm and safe classrooms, and more opportunities for personal connections, engagement and support,” Thiel said during the meeting.

Last week, the district laid out its staffing proposal for next school year. That proposal plans to fund an additional 14 homeroom teachers in K-5 schools.