John, a Portland Public Schools parent who did not share his last name, works two jobs and doesn’t have time to help his kids with their homework or organize extracurricular activities for them.

The district’s Make It Happen program, which supports multilingual students academically and socially, has helped his kids improve in school and find classes they’re excited about.

But Make It Happen is one of many programs that might be scaled back next year under the $161 million budget that Portland Superintendent Ryan Scallon presented earlier this month. The 2024-25 school year budget is $2 million less than this year’s $163 million budget and would eliminate almost 30 positions.

John was among the 25 parents and educators who spoke in front of the Portland school board at its meeting Tuesday night. They asked the board to preserve positions currently on the chopping block, thanked the district for keeping positions that are set to be retained and requested that positions be added where support is needed.

Speakers shared concerns about the elimination of a wide range of positions, including education technicians, multilingual student support staff in the Make It Happen program, educators charged with writing and implementing curriculum, and educators tasked with implementing technology into curriculum and protecting the privacy of student data.

“My heart hurts for the loss and the struggle of it all,” said Katie West, whose position creating hands-on outdoor curricula helping students connect with Maine’s environment and history is set to be cut.


District leaders say that they don’t want to cut positions, but that they’re in a tight spot due to a significant loss of federal COVID-19 relief money, flat state funding, inflation and a limited ability to raise taxes.

“Things are going to have to be cut,” board Chair Sarah Lentz said. “We just can’t keep it all.”

The $161 million budget would a require a nearly $10 million increase in funding from taxpayers, bumping the local tax contribution from $111 million to $119.4 million and resulting in a 6.85% increase in the school district’s portion of city taxes. That would lead to an annual tax increase of $191.25 on a $375,000 home, the median house price in Portland.

Following public comment, Portland school board members discussed their willingness to raise taxes, use reserves and cut positions currently in the budget in exchange for those currently set to be slashed.

Most school board members said they were willing to raise taxes to some extent. Board member Sarah Brydon said she would be willing to raise taxes by as much as 6.9%. Lentz said she would be comfortable with as much as a 7% increase. Other board members said they didn’t have enough information to decide on a tax increase ceiling.

While saying that “every cut is painful,” school board member Julianne Opperman said she did not want to raise taxes by more than the currently proposed 6.85%.


School board members seemed both glum about the district’s financial situation and determined to push forward and find ways to continue to serve the city of Portland’s students to the best of their ability.

Board members shared ideas about how to save money next year and in the future, including by giving middle school students city bus passes instead of transporting them on school buses, scaling back the district’s Gifted and Talented program, selling the district’s central office and cutting administrative positions.

The school board is still in the beginning of a months-long process to approve a budget for the 2025 fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The district’s finance committee has met twice already to discuss the budget and will continue to work on the budget over the next few weeks.

The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget on April 9. The budget must then be passed by the City Council on May 20 before being voted on by the public on June 11.

This story was updated at noon on March 21 to correct the date of the board’s vote on the budget. 

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