The chairwoman of the Portland Board of Public Education is calling on the City Council to engage in an ongoing community conversation about establishing universal pre-kindergarten in Maine’s largest city.

Anna Trevorrow made the comments Monday evening during a 30-minute State of the Schools address, during which she devoted much time to the district’s successes, including the opening of the new Amanda Rowe Elementary School and being the first in Maine to award a new state-certified Seal of Biliteracy that recognizes achievement in language learning.

The call for investing in universal pre-kindergarten comes as the school district is projected to continue seeing decreases in state education funding. The bleak funding picture prompted school officials to begin studying the district’s facilities and enrollment, a process that could lead to school consolidations.

Trevorrow said test results show that economically advantaged students are competitive with their peers from other districts. But there continues to be an achievement gap among economically disadvantaged students, including students of color and those for whom English is a second language.

Half of Portland’s 6,684 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, while one-third come from homes where English is not the primary language. Forty-four percent are students of color.

“It is essential that we invest strategically to improve student outcomes to make progress toward realizing our equity goal,” Trevorrow said. “One of the ways we can do that is through universal pre-kindergarten.”


Portland launched a pre-K program in 2011, but is not able to serve all students, Trevorrow said.

Universal pre-kindergarten for about 140 students in Portland could cost as much as $3.1 million a year through a partnership with Opportunity Alliance, The Forecaster reported. The classes would be ramped up over a five-year period, with the first year costing $939,000, which is about $150,000 more than current spending, the paper reported.

“Over the past year, the board has actively participated in a community conversation about increasing access to high quality pre-K,” Trevorrow said. “I’ll take this opportunity to ask the council to join us in that conversation and help us figure out how we can increase pre-K access – something that Portland can be proud of and that will help make a difference to all students down the road.”

Trevorrow also pointed to last year’s contentious budget process. The City Council ordered a nearly $3 million reduction from Superintendent Xavier Botana’s $113 million proposed budget. That led to the loss of two class days, fewer electives in the middle schools and a reduction of more than $1 million in administrative support, Trevorrow said.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the council’s $110.6 million budget.

“This budget served to heighten awareness within the Portland community that we are facing, and will continue to face, complex funding dynamics,” Trevorrow said. “We must figure out how to not only support our current level of education, but to improve it, while at the same time being cognizant of Portland taxpayers.”


To that end, the district is studying its enrollment and facilities, which include 18 schools (four high schools, three middle schools and 10 elementary schools) and the Bayside Learning Community.

“Important decisions about our schools, our school boundaries and our investments may result from this analysis,” Trevorrow said. “However, I want to stress that no decisions have been made yet.”

Trevorrow also highlighted the district’s successful lawsuit that not only allowed Deering High School student Allan Monga, an asylum-seeker from Zambia, to compete in the national Poetry Out Loud contest, but prompted the National Endowment for the Arts to change its rules to allow non-citizens to compete.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

Twitter: randybillings

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