President’s Message: Our Community Stands with Us for Small Class Sizes

Educators have been outspoken about the fact that our students' needs this year are immense, and dramatically outsize the supports available at our schools. That is why it is unthinkable that PPS could argue that our schools are overstaffed this year, and move to cut teaching positions and raise class sizes.

The last few weeks, I have written plenty about these cuts, the resulting class sizes, and the fact that PPS has the funding to make next year dramatically BETTER for our students, instead of packing more students into fewer classrooms, with less time and attention from their teacher.  

(In case you missed anything, you can read my message from the last Advocate, and my remarks to the PPS School Board on February 22nd and March 1st.)  

When we first heard about these cuts, PPS said the cuts were necessary because of a projected 8% enrollment decline, which they said would result in a similar loss of funding. Since that time, we’ve documented that PPS is actually getting slightly more funding overall, and significantly MORE funding per student next year

Now we are hearing some of our school board members say that the reason for the cuts is because, in their opinion, class-size does not matter.

Anyone who has spent time in a classroom knows that class size makes an enormous difference-- to students’ academic learning, to their social-emotional wellness, and to their sense of belonging and community. 

And it is not just educators who think so. Families and community members have been overwhelmingly supportive as well, demanding PPS put our resources where they count-- in the classroom.

Our community has given PPS a mandate to lower class sizes by consistently approving the Portland Teacher Levy, which raises about $100 million a year for PPS, enough to fund at least 825 teachers. No other locality has a local source of funding like this, so PPS class sizes should be significantly LOWER than other districts. 

Thankfully, leaders in our community are also pushing back on cuts to education at a time when student need has never been greater, and we have the funds to make next year a BETTER YEAR: 

  • Thank you, City Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty for posting on Twitter that you “Stand with PAT.”
  • Thank you, Gubernatorial Candidate Tina Kotek for urging PPS to “put every resource into the classroom experience at a time when students, teachers, and communities desperately need it.”
  • Thank you to our fellow PPS Unions: SEIU, PFSP, DCU and ATU wrote this letter urging PPS to invest in students by dramatically reducing class sizes and caseloads.
  • Thank you to Representative Pham, Jama, Nelson, and Salinas, and Senator Lawrence Spence of the Oregon BIPOC Caucus for sending this letter to PPS leaders reminding them that “cuts to student facing positions should be the option of absolute last resort.“

And most importantly, THANK YOU to all of you, as well as all of the students and parents, who showed up in solidarity to school board meetings in the last few weeks, to ask the board to CUT CLASS SIZES, not teachers. 

Together, we can make next year a better year for our students. We are asking PPS leaders to share that vision, and utilize the resources we already have to make it a reality. 

In Solidarity,

Elizabeth Thiel

PAT President