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Learning With Less: A Family Struggles With Cutbacks And Finances

All this school year, OPB has been tracking a few teachers, families, and administrators in a series we’re called “Learning With Less.” As the end of the school year approaches, districts and parents alike are looking at budget cuts for next fall.

Rob Manning catches up with a Portland mom we’ve been following, and her three girls, to find out what they’re planning.

Rob Manning / OPB

For 12 years, Leslie Dailey has had kids in Portland Public Schools. She remembers volunteering back when her two older girls were at Atkinson Elementary.

“When the two older ones were at Atkinson, I mean I had a little one,  tagging along the entire time when they were there, so we worked in the library a lot at Atkinson, because I could take the little one with me.”

Dailey says she helped run fundraisers and became active with a parent-teacher association.

But year after year, Dailey says she’s seen budget cuts reduce offerings, at her daughters’ schools.

All three of Dailey’s daughters came up through a signature Portland Public School program: Spanish immersion. But as the district moved the program and enacted budget cuts, there have been frustrations for all three of Dailey’s daughters.

Rob Manning / OPB

Let’s go oldest to youngest.

“My name is Madison Duarte, I am a junior, and I am 17 years old.”

Madison Duarte is at Cleveland High School – where the Spanish immersion program used to be. The district moved Spanish immersion to Franklin, this year. Madison chose to stay at Cleveland, and now she has to look elsewhere for Spanish, next year.

“I am topping out the Spanish at my school after this year, so I’m trying to find a Spanish class for next year. I applied to the Young Scholars program at Reed, and to the ‘LINK’ program at PSU, to see if I can take it over there, for next year.”

But even if Madison gets into one of the college Spanish courses, Portland’s high school schedule might make it impossible to attend.

“Well, hopefully, I’ll be able to do it. I could probably get out of some of my classes here, depending on what my schedule looks like next year, in order to get over there. It’s just really confusing with the A/B schedule, because we change every day, and their schedules at the other schools are very set.”

That block schedule is also a problem for Madison’s sister, Sabra.

Rob Manning / OPB

“My name is Sabra, I am 14, and I am a freshman at Cleveland High School.”

Sabra is sitting in study hall.

Study hall runs nearly an hour and a half every other day, and is required for underclassmen. Sabra says she and her friends get bored.

“When we have math homework due, we do it this period, and then it’s due next period. We do it in here, but it only takes a couple of minutes, so after that, we just play cards.”

Boredom plagues Sabra outside study hall, too. She was placed in a Spanish class that was easy. So she and another classmate got a student-teacher to provide them with an “honors” track version for credit.

“Well, the student-teacher isn’t here any more, so, I guess technically we’re still in honors, but we don’t do anything.”

But the biggest disappointment for mom, Leslie Dailey, has to do with Rochelle —- the “little one” who used to tag along when Mom was volunteering.

Rochelle is now a 5th grader in the Spanish immersion program at Bridger K-8. She’s one of 13 students.

“They have a really small middle school population. They don’t have any extra stuff – there’s no band, there’s no art. At one point, they had computers, I don’t think they even have that anymore – just none of the middle school stuff that my older kids had gotten,” Leslie says.

Dailey and her husband discussed moving, but instead they tried to transfer Rochelle through the public school lottery. They also rushed to apply to a competitive private school, and Rochelle got in.

“So, I drove down there on a Wednesday afternoon and made the deposit, everything, and got home, and the letter was in the mail from the school district, and she got wait-listed everywhere! So, I think we made the right choice.”

Dailey’s daughter, Rochelle, says she’s excited about her new school.

“Because they do a lot of really fun activities, and they try to help people in need.”

Rochelle says she’ll miss her friends from Bridger. Her mom says she’s heard from parents who feel stuck, because they couldn’t transfer out, and can’t afford private school.

Leslie Dailey is hoping her family can afford both private school, and college tuition for Madison in a year and a half. Madison hopes so, too.

“Well, my Mom was always asking, ‘oh, what do you think is best for Rochelle?’ So I was like ‘you shouldn’t ask me, because I’m extremely biased, because that’s money that could be going into my college fund.’ But I think it’s what’s best for her.”

Leslie Dailey wants to bring Rochelle back to the public school system for high school. She hopes that school budgets will improve by then.


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