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How would you save $57 million?

We all know that the Portland Public School system is short some cash for next year, roughly $57 million give or take a buck.  PPS is now taking your thoughts:  How would you balance the budget for Portland Public Schools?  Cut administrative spending, cut programs like athletics or Outdoor school, close 4, 6, 10, or 13 schools, reduce staff at schools and increase the student/teacher ratio anywhere from 24.5 to 27.5, limit wage increases, limit contributions toward employees' health care, tap into a one-time funding source, cut a week of school or shorten the school year, spend toward longer-term investments.  There are choices, but many of them look bleak.  PPS is collecting your thoughts via the web-based worksheets.  The website states: "Your ideas will help inform the discussion as the Superintendent and School Board make their budget decisions."

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None of those options look good to me.

Why is it that for most of our economy, people accept that if you want good employees, you must pay them well, but educators should be willing to work for less? The fastest way to ensure school quality drops is to make the benefits and pay less competitive, so that's off the table in my mind.

Our neighborhood school, which performs really well and was part of why we bought in this neighborhood, is threatened under PPS's plans. I could go on and on about why that sucks, but I'll just say this: I want my kids to walk to school. I want it because I don't want to have to drive a car 1/2 or 1 mile or more and add to gridlock and pollution. And I want it for their health, and I want it for the unity of our neighborhood.

Portland's schools are nowhere near as troubled as the ones in Atlanta (part of why we moved here) but if we can't see that shorting the education system now will cost our economy and society in the long run, our priorities are seriously screwed up.

Off the cuff, I think tapping into a one-time pot of money and working like hell to increase tax funding (like re-allocating the corporate kicker, or inviting companies to donate it into a special endowment) for the next budget cycle is the best way.

I absolutely agree with your ideas, Betsy (though I may have a vested interest, because I am a teacher and would like, someday, to work for PPS).

I recall going to a union meeting at Oakland Public Schools during which the president of the California Teachers Association spoke. She essentially said that often the money for education is there, but that allocating it for such purposes is a question of priorities.

This was certainly the case in Oakland, where tons and tons of money was dumped on tests and test preparation programs of questionable value, as the district rapidly cut salaries, benefits, programs, and activities.

Having just read the set of articles in the Oregonian, I'm even more convinced that closures aren't the best answer: it will only save 2.2 million out of a 24 million dollar shortfall. That's not the only justification PPS is offering, but I want to know more about how this plan will 'ensure stability' in the long run, as they claim, since our school - among a few others slated for closure - is one with INCREASING enrollment in the past five years, not declining. The other piece is that the solution is that "popular K-8" schools (the only examples we have in the system right now are magnet schools with self-selected kids who not surprisingly will perform well, and which if I'm not mistaken, don't have to serve higher-needs kids) will somehow magically solve the problem of poor performing middle schools, but doesn't say how. Whatever the problems of middle school are, they can't ALL be put down to the disruption to kids' lives of moving schools. I'm not sold.

So I'm not a big fan of taxes to begin with. I feel slightly cheated that the mult. co. tax was slated to go to schools (or at least the media built it up that way) and now we are in this crisis.
I agree that teachers should be the ones compensated. They are on the front lines. So, I would like the administration and the administrators who are working all this out to take a pay cut. A news station a while back went through and listed the amounts that admin. personnel made and it was astounding! Much more than teachers. I vote that they cut their pay down to a teacher salary. Or at least even out the pay field to be balanced with the teachers.
I think that this is a problem that has been built up over many years. Paying for the sins of the fathers, if you will. Talking with a teacher from the 80's he talked of people spending useless amounts of money to make sure they didn't lose their budget. In his words, "a stockpile of supplies on hand until 2020" just to prevent themselves from losing the money.
Sorry too long, I'm all for accoutability. I think that there are other districts in the area that have done a great job at spending their money wisely and as a result people want to send their kids there. Why hasn't portland done the same?

A district the size of PPS needs administrators. PPS has cut a lot of admin positions. What remains seems essential to keep things working. Most of the admin staff work through the summer. Year 'round they research, establish and troubleshoot programs that help keep the schools going. They also take on most of the more intense feedback that comes to the district - they sit in the hot seat. Like most people who work for schools, they could take their skills and efforts into the private sector and make way more money, but most likely have an interest in creating a successful educational system for children. The existing admin are working as hard for the kids as the teachers. Imagine having a major concern come up with your student that needed solving beyond the scope of the classroom or school building. So you call the PPS mainline and you're on hold for an hour and then someone takes a message and after a week or two the last standing administrator calls you back with no support to offer because he's been running all over north, south, east and west Portland putting out fires.

The budget mess is a result of previous mismanagement. PPS has trimmed things back quite a bit over the last few years. Most everything left standing is essential, but enormous cuts still have to happen for the district to function with the current funding. Or, you know, the funding could change. Somehow.

I agree, you are right, they need administrator's.
I'm only worried about the higher up's, i guess, getting paid so much more than teachers. It seems sad to me that a principle can make $100,000 a year and a techer make $35-40,000. I know they have worked hard for it, but there are teacers that have worked hard for it too.

Teacher's are the most valuable part of a school, I agree. But they don't work as many days in a year and they usually are only responsible for the kids in their class, not all of the kids in the school plus all of the staff in the school. A principal sets the tone for a building - keeps the plate spinning on the stick. A (good) principal could take her skills and open a business and make far more money with far less hassle. Just like salaries for teachers need to be competitive, so do salaries for principals, because we want good ones. Of course, slacker principals shouldn't make anything.

I agree with you, Rachel. Good administrators are invaluable and they have very difficult, stressful jobs and who allow the teachers focus on the kids. If we cut their pay back to that of teachers', what would be the motivation for the talented ones to stay or even apply for the jobs when they could take their talents to the private sector? These are people with advanced degrees and years of experience. We cut their pay and we get what we pay for -- people who don't have the skills/abilities and just want the power.

Something I've been wondering about but haven't heard about is all the empty buildings that PPS has in mothballs. They cost significant money to maintain even when they are closed so why aren't they being sold? Maybe there is a really good reason that I haven't heard about -- has anyone?

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