Schools with enrollment spikes are candidates for new resources

PORTLAND, Ore. - It'll probably be the end of the week before it is known which schools will get more teachers after Portland Public Schools found additional dollars in its budget, but those schools that saw big enrollment jumps are good candidates for more resources.

A revised budget and more money expected from the state will allow the district to add dozens of teachers.

Sabin School is one of those schools that had an increase in enrollment.

Emily Foster's kindergarten class has just shy of 30 children. She, like every teacher, likes the idea of smaller class sizes and more one-on-one time with students.

Sabin principal Andrew Dauch said his school has been lucky in recent years. His staffing levels have stayed pretty much the same, but with a spike in enrollment this school year, he's relishing the chance to bolster what he already thinks is a great teaching staff.

"We have dynamite teachers here that are really passionate about what they do," he said. "So as the building principal, I really welcome any opportunity where we can provide more support for our teachers that are going to impact our kids in a positive way."

The district found about $16 million in available resources for this school year.

How many teaching positions the money will provide for and when those teachers will be hired requires a detailed look at the numbers.

David Wynde, the district's budget director, said some of the money came from PERS ($1.5 million), $1.4 million of utility savings and $1.2 million from the government.

The list is long and includes grants. But the bulk of it, $11 million, came from vacant positions that were never filled and general under-spending within all district departments.

Most new money will go to one main goal.

"We're going to spend $3 million of that adding teachers," Wynde said.

He knows parents wonder why this money wasn't found before, but he said budgets can be tricky and they plan for the worst.

"The one thing, as budget director, I do not want to walk into the superintendent's office and say we have less than we thought we were going to," he said.

Budget forecasts were conservative in their estimates and the actual money is more than that.

The district is already interviewing applicants, and it wants to hire immediately.

While the district found $16 million, it is only using $6.5 million this year. The rest will ensure that whatever positions are hired this year can be sustained next year.

Schools statewide will benefit from the "grand bargain" struck between Gov. John Kitzhaber and Oregon lawmakers. Several bills passed in a special session that wrapped up last week.

The bills included curbing of PERS benefits to save the state money, tax reforms -raising some, cutting others - and closing loopholes. Kitzhaber signed those bills Tuesday.

Planners estimate that those bills will raise about $200 million to put toward education statewide.