PORTLAND – The city’s public schools would hire additional teachers for students who are learning to speak English and resurrect an elementary world-language program under an $89.8 million budget proposal now before the School Committee.

The spending plan, endorsed last week by the finance subcommittee, also would preserve middle school and freshman high school sports programs for one year while the district seeks other ways to pay for them.

The School Committee will hold a public hearing on the proposed 2010-11 budget at 7 tonight in Room 250 at Portland Arts and Technology High School.

The finance subcommittee didn’t review 80 individual positions targeted for cuts in the $89.7 million budget initially proposed by Superintendent Jim Morse.

“I don’t want to micromanage that for him,” said Jaimey Caron, a finance subcommittee member. “Once we give him the resources to run the district, he can do as he sees fit.”

The proposed budget reflects an estimated $4 million reduction in state and federal funding in the fiscal year starting July 1. About half of the positions targeted for cuts will be vacant because of retirements. The other half would require layoffs.

The finance subcommittee endorsed Morse’s recommendation to hire 8.5 additional teachers ($420,000) to address a critical need in the district’s multilingual program.

“We strongly support that staffing,” Caron said, noting that an increase in immigrant students and cuts in multilingual staffing have put the district in danger of violating federal guidelines.

Caron said Grace Valenzuela, director of the multilingual program, delivered a thorough and convincing presentation that backed her budget request and won support from principals at all levels.

Kate Snyder, the subcommittee’s chairwoman, said middle school and high school sports programs ($399,000) should be preserved for one year, along with elementary band and K-12 strings programs ($160,000).

However, she said, the onus will be on school and community leaders to boost participation in those programs and find alternative funding, especially because the district expects to lose an additional $4 million to $6 million in state and federal revenue in 2011-12.

“There’s going to be a ticking time bomb associated with some of these things because we won’t be able to afford them in the near future,” Snyder said.

She said the School Committee may consider reinstating several locally funded educational technician positions that have been targeted for cuts, but she would want to offset that expense by finding savings elsewhere in the budget.

The finance subcommittee backed Morse’s plan to hire two Spanish teachers ($100,000), who would begin offering language classes to third-graders two to three times per week. The program would be expanded to fourth- and fifth-graders and could include additional languages in the future, Morse said.

The subcommittee also agreed to hire three social studies teachers ($150,000), a literacy instructor ($50,000) and a technology instructor ($35,000) to address inequities in the city’s three middle schools.

The proposed budget also retains the one teacher remaining in the district’s family living and human sexuality program ($75,000), who would help develop a transition plan to offer sex education through the district’s health education program. The two other family living teachers will retire in June.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at: [email protected]