Portland Public Schools: Enrollment Down/Spending Up

Public school enrollment is plunging in Oregon and across the country. The New York Times calls it “a ‘Seismic Hit’ to Public Schools, “supercharged” by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Enrollment at the country’s public schools have declined by at least 1.2 million students since 2020, according to a recently published national survey.

In 2016, PPS said, “Based on demographic studies conducted by Portland State University, it is anticipated that enrollment will level off at about 54,383 students by the 2030/31 school year under the PSU Medium Growth Scenario .”

Oh well.

Overall enrollment in Oregon has declined by almost 30,000 students since 2019-2020, slipping from 582,661 in 2019-2020 to 553,012 in 2021-2022. Oregon’s experience has generally followed national trends which are showing enrollment losses in city districts and growth in rural, suburban and town districts, according to the Burbio school tracking site. 

Some of the enrollment declines are likely due to parents frustrated with remote schooling, some to frustration with curriculum and “woke” instruction. Declines may also be attributed to economic dislocation of families, a decision that home schooling or charter schools were simply preferable or simply demographic changes. 

Portland Public Schools, the state’s largest district, is seeing the largest enrollment declines. Total enrollment in the district has dropped from 48,559 in the 2019-2020 school year to 45,123 in the 2021-2022 school year. District officials are projecting total enrollment of 41,723 in the next school year, a decline of another 3,400 students.

And yet, the Portland Public Schools budget keeps growing.

On May 24 2022, the Portland Public Schools board passed $1.89 billion budget for the 2022-2023 school year, This compares with a $1.5 billion budget for the 2018-2019 school year, when enrollment totaled 48,677 students, 6,954 more than expected enrollment of 41,723 in 2022-2023.\

Portland Public School central staff has risen 67% since 2017.  Elizabeth Thiel, Portland Association of Teachers President said in The Oregonian, “Since 2017, for example, there has been a 67% increase in the number of academic administrators in the central office. Over the same period, the central office budget has grown twice as fast as what PPS spends on frontline educators and support staff who deal directly with students, based on Portland Association of Teachers’ analysis of PPS’ budget documents.”

On May 25, OPB reported that after the school board’s budget vote, Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero,  board members, teachers, and the few parents remaining at the end of the meeting all agreed on the need to head down to Salem next year to lobby the legislature for more school funding.

More. Ever more.

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