Portland educators concerned about district’s plan to cut teaching jobs

Elizabeth Thiel, president of the Portland Association of Teachers, said cutting positions would hurt students who need them so badly.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland Public Schools (PPS) plans to reduce the number of teachers in the 2022-23 school year.

The move comes amid an expected drop in enrollment next year. KGW spoke with the head of the Portland Teachers Association about what this will mean for teachers and their students.

Tuesday night’s school board meeting was filled with plenty of talk about the PPS’s plan to cut teachers next year.

A teacher asked, “Why should I stay at PPS?”

Another teacher, Angela Bonilla, who is also president-elect of the Portland Association of Teachers, said teachers need support and investment.

Elizabeth Thiel, president of the Portland Association of Teachers, was also present at the board meeting.

“I’m here today because even though the PPS has made cuts, there’s still time to change course,” Thiel told Portland Public Schools board members.

Thiel said around 100 teachers have already been told their posts will be cut. The district said it expects enrollment to decline next year. Funding is often tied to the number of enrollments, which means funding for PPS projects can also drop.

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“At the end of last week, I was told there were still 65 primary school teachers and now it’s 31 middle school teachers and a few more elementary level physical education teachers,” Thiel told About teachers who have been informed that they have been disassigned.

This does not necessarily mean that these teachers are unemployed, but it does mean more uncertainty.

“They may be looking for other careers or they may stay and wait to see if there is a position at another PPS school to replace someone who is retiring or resigning or leaving the district for other reasons,” Thiel said.

KGW contacted the district for comment and received a statement that read, “As of [March 2], the reduction projections for teachers for the 2022-2023 school year are just under 89. It is important to remember that these allocations are based on enrollment and funding projections. Every year we lose teachers due to retirements, promotions, career changes, etc. We hope that no teachers will be laid off due to declining enrollment and funding. As we continue the budgeting process, these numbers will continue to fluctuate.

Thiel said the district believes the staff cuts are due to lower enrollment during the pandemic. “Normally that’s how we talk about funding, but things are more complex than that,” she said.

In his presentation to the school board on Tuesday, Thiel cited updated state funding figures. She said the district would get a little more money.

The district receives money from the Student Success Act, Teacher Tax, and Arts Tax. They are not based on the number of registrations.

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Additionally, according to the Oregon Department of Education website, the PPS received approximately $116 million in federal emergency relief funds.

A PPS spokesperson said some of that money went to charter schools, so the district received $99 million.

This federal relief money came in three separate distributions that the state called the ESSER I, ESSER II, and ESSER III funds. The first amount of $7 million is to be used or intended to be used by September 2022, the second amount of $30 million by September 2023 and the third amount of $62 million is to be used or intended to be used. to be used by September 2024.

Thiel said cutting teaching positions would be detrimental to students who need them so badly. A student who spoke at the school board meeting on Tuesday night described the school year as chaotic and said he saw students fighting and teachers being beaten as they tried to keep students safe. students.

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