PORTLAND, Maine — The Portland Board of Public Education on Tuesday voted to approve a $125.2 million school budget proposal for the 2020-2021 school year. The budget contains investments to address three themes: “Advancing Equity,” “Integrating innovations from COVID,” and “Rebuilding academic and social emotional foundations post COVID.”
The Board’s FY22 school budget is up 4.4 percent or $5.3 million over this year’s budget of $119.9 million, according to Portland Public Schools communications coordinator Tess Nacelewicz. Nacelewicz said about $2.4 million of the increase is a baseline budget that maintains current programs and services and covers increased costs for salaries, benefits and debt service. Equity investments totaling $2.9 million make up the remainder, according to Nacelewicz. The budget, which assumes a full return to in-person learning this fall, requires an increased investment of $6.2 million from local taxpayers, and would result in a 5.5 percent increase in the school portion of the tax rate.
The budget approved Tuesday is $751,000 less than the $125.8 million budget proposed by Superintendent Xavier Botana in March. Since that time, Nacelewicz said the district learned that the district’s share of health insurance costs for employees would be $661,000 less than anticipated. Also, the district’s share of state funding for career and technical education was $90,000 more than expected, according to Nacelewicz.
The Board will present its budget to the City Council on April 26.
“I look forward to working with the Council to help the Council understand why this budget is so critical,” Board Chair Emily Figdor said.
The Council sets the bottom line of the school budget.
According to Nacelewicz, the budget includes $2.9 million in centering Equity investments in FY22 to:
- Invest in the district’s Lau plan, which ensures the proper identification, programming and English language services for English language learner (ELL) students. The budget would ensure that schools have the ELL teachers necessary to support mainstream teachers in effectively meeting the needs of their ELL students within a mainstream classroom, while preserving the level of intensive English language learning supports that ELL students need; establish a support structure for students with limited and interrupted formal educational experiences; and enable the resources to support the needs of students who are dually identified as ELL and having disabilities: $1,026,793.
- Continue to grow the district’s pre-kindergarten program (as part of the district’s five-year pre-K expansion plan) with two additional classrooms and also providing transportation: $216,935.
- Scale up curriculum and professional development by increasing support for high school mathematics instruction and resourcing to support the development and curriculum in Wabanaki and Africana studies: $103,327.
- Enhance special education services by extending support for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in middle schools and establish an additional classroom for students with ASD at the elementary level to respond to growing numbers: $305,498.
- Enhance special education services by adding a Functional Life Skills teacher and educational technician at Deering High School to support the increase in students in this program: $108,667.
- Provide the resources to effectively implement the School Board’s new Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination policy, including stipends for school-based liaisons and creating the position of a district ombudsman: $120,968.
- Affirm the district’s commitment to developing staff capacity to become an anti-racist institution by shifting the cost of the district’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion from philanthropic grants to the district’s budget: $119,132.
- Strengthen the district’s support for hiring and supporting a diverse workforce by establishing a Human Resources position to operationalize recruitment and affinity supports for educators of color; compensate our diverse staff appropriately for linguistic and identity-based work they perform; and create pathways to career development for our diverse staff: $398,807. In addition to the investments that center Equity, the budget also includes investments related to the pandemic:
- As part of addressing student physical and mental health needs arising from the pandemic, the budget would increase nurse (.2 FTE) and social work staffing (3.5 FTE): $273,400.
- Reflecting the district’s commitment to build on innovation and new learning from the pandemic, the budget includes funding to support a position to lead the ongoing professional development and support needed to integrate new investments in technology: $122,560. It also establishes the position of outdoor learning coordinator in order to continue and expand on this year’s outdoor learning initiative into the future: $93,059.
The Council will hold a public hearing on the school budget on May 3 and vote on it May 10. A public referendum on the school budget will take place on June 8.
A complete budget timeline and budget documents can be found on the district’s website.