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Portland Board of Education guts school district

The Portland Public School system is in trouble. Anyone with a modicum of familiarity with the Northwest's largest school district knows this has been the case for nearly a decade. Yet now Portland's 55,000 students are facing proposed cuts and staff layoffs as never before. The state is reeling from a $36 million shortfall, the district itself faces a $7 million hole.

500 protest proposed cuts
On Monday, March 18, at a School Board meeting, Members of SEIU, Jobs With Justice, the teachers' union, and many other community members crammed into the PPS district office to protest the proposed budget cuts. The nearly four hour meeting was highlighted by impassioned speeches from many people who will be impacted by these cuts. Members of SEIU Local 140 (the custodians' union) spoke eloquently on the inherent problems with privatizing the custodial work that they do. Parents spoke out about feeling unsafe with having transient, low-paid workers in the same building as their kids. Jobs With Justice folks spoke out about the struggle to maintain living wages, and various teachers also spoke in the custodians' behalf.

Board goes ahead with most cuts
Despite other pleas to keep elementary schools open, to spare teachers' health benefits, and to work creatively to find sustainable solutions for systemic problems, the Board decided to go ahead with most of the proposed cuts in the recommended budget. Said one witness: "In the end it was clear that the decisions had already been made, and that we were not being heard."

[ Full story | Background: "Portland Public Schools in crisis" | Copy of the recommended budget ]

Previous coverage
Portland School Board meetings have often been lively affairs with passionate citizen involvement. See these previous portland indymedia stories for details:

[ May 2001: "Direct action halts Board of Education meeting" | April 2001: "84 Custodians Laid Off by Portland Public Schools" ]

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