The Beaverton school district would eliminate more than 300 jobs under a budget proposal presented Thursday night at Sunset High School. Beaverton is one of the three largest school districts in Oregon -- and it's facing the largest budget shortfall.
Before Beaverton superintendent Jeff Rose got into the budget details, he set the tone. He says things may get better eventually -- but that no one should sugarcoat the current situation.
Rose said, "We can't optimistically believe that this financial problem is going to just go away. We must confront the brutal facts, and even if necessary, because it is, make current, difficult sacrifices. And we must not lose faith that in the end, we will rebuild, and of course, prevail."
For that reason, Rose directed his budget advisory teams to come up with sustainable cuts. He cautioned against short-term solutions, based in the hope that things would improve quickly.
Beaverton has cut $105 million over the last four years. Next year’s cut is $37 million or more than 12 percent of its general fund budget. Rose says the only way to reach a number that big is through layoffs. Lots of them. Portland Public could cut 144 jobs for next year. Rose proposed cutting 344.
Rose explained, "The truth is, we have some extremely tough times ahead. We are trying to describe to you what we’re investing in. The bottom line is: we have a revenue issue."
Part of Beaverton’s revenue shortfall is due to the voters' rejection of a local option levy last year. Rose never mentioned the levy in last night’s talk, and counseled others not to point fingers.
Those 344 jobs aren’t all teachers. As elementary, middle, and high school budget teams came forward, they suggested paring back assistant principals, as well as library media specialists. Athletic directors recommended dropping district support for high school golf and water polo. Budget committee members, like Cameron Irtifa, explored alternatives.
Irtifa said, "One thing I was noticing is that we are increasing the class sizes to a substantial number. Did we look into maybe closing down some smaller schools?"
Rose says the district can't close schools because the schools students would move to don't have room -- or would be too far away.
Board member Mary VanderWeele asked about cutting days off the school calendar, instead of laying off teachers.
She asked, "In the online survey, there was a priority of class size and teachers over days. I was wondering, what is the reduction of days in the proposal from the current school year?"
Rose's budget message said that to cut enough school days to fill the $37 million gap, school would have to close in mid-April. And furthermore, Rose pointed out to VanderWeele that furlough days needed union approval.
The district budget assumes labor costs can be kept in check under tentative contracts with the unions. But the president of the district's school employee union Mike Alli says other aspects of the budget will be tough on his members.
Alli said, "Our members -- and I’ll say the same for teachers – have been asked to do more and more, with less and less. Our members have gone through salary freezes. And it’s frustrating because our members are just overworked."
In the end, administrators, like Vicki Lukich, say the new budget environment will be tough, but won’t fundamentally change the schools.
Lukich explained, "The classes will be bigger, but as far as a significant change in their education -- I think we’re still going to be giving them a very strong education, and preparing them for their future."
But there will be bigger class sizes. Staffing ratios are going to 28 students to one staff member in kindergarten, and 30 students to one instructor for older kids.
Beaverton will hold its first public hearing on the budget May 1.