The Beaverton School District plans to trim its teaching force but add staff in other areas, as it fills a projected $15 million budget hole.
The proposed budget for one of Oregon’s largest districts reflects a trend among big school systems in the state: They’re banking on more money from the state than either Gov. Kate Brown or legislative leaders have proposed.
Even if lawmakers approve spending $8.1 billion on public schools in the 2017-19 budget cycle as schools are hoping for, Beaverton proposes cutting 75 teaching jobs.
District officials say that doesn’t necessarily mean laying off teachers, however. With a teaching force of well over 2,000, a district spokeswoman said it was possible 75 or more teachers could retire or leave this summer. That would likely lead to shifting teachers into different positions to cover all the openings.
The uncertainty in Salem extends to specific budget priorities in Beaverton, particularly what funding for Measure 98 might mean for the district’s career-technical education goals.
“We want to make investments in CTE programming at our high schools, but we will need to wait for the Legislature to define the funding stream during this session,” said Superintendent Don Grotting in his budget message.
The last time Beaverton was forced to make deep budget cuts was in 2012. At that time, the school board agreed to eliminate 340 teaching positions — leading to about 100 layoffs, but 365 transferred teachers.
The 2012 cuts were to fill a budget hole more than twice as large as what Beaverton is facing right now, and was on the heels of years of cuts forced by the Great Recession. District officials point out Beaverton did not have funding from its local option levy for the 2012-13 school year, either.
District officials say for the upcoming school year, student to teacher ratios would stay virtually unchanged.
Reductions in 2017 include halving spending the district had directed toward schools with specific academic needs. What the district calls “Academic Needs Based Staffing Allocation,” would fall from $10.1 million to $4.4 million.
Of the 75 teacher reductions, more than half would come out of elementary schools, with the rest coming evenly out of middle and high schools.
Leaders of Beaverton’s teachers union said they want to see higher funding levels out of the state than the $8.1 billion proposed in the district’s funding plan.
“It is devastating to be back in the position of making budget cuts, especially when the economy is growing,” said Beaverton Education Association president Sara Schmitt. “Ideally, the district will use some of their rainy day fund to protect class sizes and support for struggling students.”
The 2017-18 budget proposal includes a slight increase in reserve funds.
Despite the cuts, Beaverton is proposing spending increases in certain areas.
The proposal would set aside $5.4 million to help facilitate the opening of three rebuilt or new schools: Mountainside High School, Sato Elementary and Vose Elementary. The budget would also boost spending on maintenance and operations.
Superintendent Grotting is in his first year as Beaverton’s top official, after years spent leading the David Douglas School District in East Portland.
Grotting’s old district has been among the leading districts in opening preschool programs at elementary schools. He has proposed starting a similar effort in Beaverton with a $428,000 investment.
“Many of our kindergartners come to us without any preschool for opportunities, putting them at a disadvantage and significantly behind their peers,” said Grotting. “We need to engage these young learners earlier and partner with their families so every kindergarten student is kindergarten ready.”
School boards will vote on budgets soon – likely well ahead of final budget figures from the state.