Two school buildings closed. 110 fewer teachers in classrooms. No Outdoor School. Those are some of the cuts in the budget proposal presented last night in the Portland Public Schools’ headquarters.
This is Carole Smith’s fifth budget as the superintendent of Portland Public Schools. Time and again, she’s made cuts.
Smith said, "It is precisely because of the successive years of reduction, that the impact of this budget will feel dramatically different."
Smith’s proposal tackles a $27 million general fund shortage and a $6 million drop in federal money for students in poverty. The proposal spends seven million in reserve funds. After that, much of the savings is from cutting jobs.
"Fewer teachers and educational staff will be available to assist our students," she said.
The proposal slashes 110 teaching jobs plus 34 central support positions.
Enrichments and electives will be further reduced. Programs that engage students and deepen their educational experience will no longer be available."
Smith eliminates funding for the popular Outdoor School program. And that's not all.
"More schools will be consolidated or closed in order to provide access to core academic offerings," Smith said.
Smith’s budget closes two North Portland schools at the end of this school year: Humboldt and the Harriet Tubman Young Women’s Academy.
That part of the proposal drew Lew Frederick’s opposition. He’s a North Portland-area legislator and a former PPS spokesman.
Frederick explained, "The promises made to this community regarding those buildings and those programs are long-running. The broken promises are also long-running."
Smith says she’s willing to talk to Frederick about her proposal.
The superintendent also wants to continue talking to the teachers’ union about possibly cutting days of school, to keep some teaching jobs.
She also acknowledged that Oregon's funding troubles threaten her marquee effort to improve and standardize the district's high school offerings.
Smith said, "We are not abandoning our core program requirements. We believe this is the bare minimum to which every one of our students deserves access. But we have to face the reality that we can not provide this at every school, at current funding levels."
Most of what Smith presented last night needs board approval. But, her central office workers already received pink slips.
One of those jobs belonged to a family engagement worker, a Somali man who provides a link to that community. Mustafa Jama was among a number of Portland Somalis who disagreed with that decision.
Jama said, "It should be viewed as a moral responsibility in the larger community, to include these newcomers who don’t have much support, to be included, so that they can be successful members, but now it’s like a door has been shut on their face."
The board is holding two public hearings on the proposal next week.