To bring school expenses in line with the budget, Portland school board members are considering separate elementary schools: four for pre-K through Grade 2, and four for grades 3 through 5.

This may cut some costs, but could surely add other expenses and generate stress for families and students. First, this will take time to complete. Second, administrative costs would likely have to increase as the city manages additional separate schools, processes and staff. Third, the plan eliminates maybe 13 teaching positions and increases classroom sizes, potentially adding stress to teachers and students.

The impact on families could be even greater. Breaking up the class cohorts hinders sibling bonding formed by walking to and from and interacting at school; increases stress for parents who may have to manage start times, after-school programs and other activities for children at four different schools. So what does the improvement offer other than laying off teachers? Not many problems in life can be solved by having fewer teachers on the job.

A better plan might be to increase Portland school revenue from appropriate taxes. Do we know what effect tax credits for big businesses, hotels and luxury condos have on city revenues? Do we know what we’ve sacrificed to lure corporate headquarters downtown? Could we consider revenue from increased taxes on Airbnb rentals and licensing? How about earmarking revenue from off-track betting or alcohol and newly launched marijuana sales for quality education?

It’s great that Portland has become so visitor- and business-friendly, but this should not be at the expense of residents, especially our children.

Jennifer Sarah


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