With spring, comes a reminder of new beginnings and possibilities. As we approach the end of this school year, now is the time to lay the groundwork for next school year, and for the change we need to make sure it is a better year for our students, and for the educators and school staff across the District.
At the district level, the most important step in preparing for next year is determining the budget. The budget will determine how much funding goes toward direct supports to students, including supporting smaller class sizes, special education supports, ELL services, school support staff, and mental health services; how much we invest in custodial and transportation services; how much goes toward central office staff and district-level contractors; and how much goes into reserves.
This month, PPS is presenting a full budget to the community and to the school board. The District is planning to present an initial budget draft to the school board and the community on April 26th, and to vote on the final budget on June 14th. In the time in between, the public will have the opportunity to review the proposed budget and give feedback. You can see the complete PPS budget calendar here.
Of course, even though the initial budget draft has not yet been presented, PPS has already moved forward with some budget decisions that deeply impact our schools. The District already implemented staffing allocations to reduce the number of elementary and middle-school teachers across the District by at least 90 positions. We know that our students’ needs are greater than ever, and our schools need MORE staff and support next year, not less.
Additionally, we have heard (and are still awaiting data from the District to confirm) that Special Education staffing will be reduced for next year, even as Special Education professionals are facing crushing workload, and are struggling to meet requirements for students. We have heard concerns that the new staffing model for ELL leaves out support for students who are close to exiting but still require ELL support. We need to allocate funding now to provide students with identified needs all the support they require.
Recently, the Oregon Secretary of State released this follow-up report on the 2019 audit of PPS. Among other things, it recommends that PPS “make its budget more clear and transparent to the public,” and that the board “identify savings areas and direct more money to classrooms.” We agree– rather than cutting teacher positions and adding new central office jobs, we need to concentrate resources where they matter most– in the classroom.
Please join me in thanking Representative Maxine Dexter, for saying so at the PPS board meeting last night. She asked the board to “prioritize the health and education of students above any other consideration, and to do it in sincere partnership with the educators of this District.”
Although the staffing process has already moved forward, it is not too late for our District to invest in the fully-staffed schools that our students deserve. The budget process is designed to allow community stakeholders to weigh in on how our tax dollars should be used to best support our students, and put words into practice. Educators, parents, and students are the key stakeholders in our schools, and the District’s job is to listen to what we need to make our schools work and match our values.