Dozens of teachers and staff members may be getting pink slips this summer, as Portland Public Schools faces a major projected budget shortfall.
“Make no mistake: this is a painful budget process,” said district spokesperson Dave Northfield. “There’s less money coming in, the state is facing a $1.7 billion shortfall over the next two years and that’s absolutely going to be felt at the school level.”
It’s still early in the process and the state budget won’t be finalized for several months, but district leaders are bracing for an $18 million shortfall for the upcoming school year.
On top of that, the district is heading into collective bargaining with the teacher’s union and needs to find another $5 million for potential raises, bringing the deficit effectively up to $23 million.
“The teachers, we believe, deserve a raise,” Northfield said. “They’re not at the top level of salaries for teachers statewide and yet they live in some of the most expensive housing areas in the state.”
Worst case scenario, the budget crunch means up to 70 teachers and employees across the district could lose their jobs.
District leaders say they’re doing everything they can to find the cuts somewhere else.
“The final number of people who actually get pink slips will be much lower than 70,” Northfield said. “…If the union contract OKed that scenario where nobody got a raise and everybody kept their jobs, that would have to be something the union would have to sign off on.”
Northfield said ESL and special education programs are not on the chopping block, and while it will be difficult, the district will work to meet the state’s PE requirement at the elementary level.
If staff cuts do come, they will likely happen at the high school level where teacher-student ratios are more flexible.
“You said shortfall, I would refer to it as a big fall. $18-23 million is a lot of money,” said Brian Unflat, co-PTA president at Rieke Elementary.
Unflat’s group raises more than $100,000 a year to support teachers and programs, and he said parents are frustrated about the projected budget gap.
“We shouldn’t have to be funding a teacher or two teachers every year through our own money to do this. So we need to figure out the situation quickly,” he said. “…Right now it’s important to keep our class sizes right-sized so our children are learning the best they can, but also, we don’t want our teachers out there looking for jobs.”
“People are understandably stressed, and we get that,” Northfield added.
The district wants you to weigh in on the budget and potential cuts. Three listening sessions with the PPS school board are scheduled for April 11 at 6 p.m. at Madison High School, 2735 N.E. 82nd Ave., and April 24 and May 9 at 5 p.m. at the district offices, 501 N. Dixon St.
More information is available at this link.
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