School Board chairman: Budget cuts put Portland schools at risk

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PORTLAND — The School Board chairman Monday night told the City Council that the city’s schools are approaching a crossroads.

“Sooner or later, Portland Public Schools must be able to compete,” Jaimey Caron said in a State of the Schools report. “And as the superintendent has said, we can’t simply cut our our way to higher student achievement.”

The report was the second since 2010 City Charter amendments required such an address.

This one lauded the recent hiring of School Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk, touched on challenges resulting from state budget curtailments, and mentioned needed infrastructure improvements, such as reconstruction of the fire-devastated Hall Elementary School.

But Caron emphasized the need for city schools to be competitive – with charter schools, such as the new Baxter School for Technology and Science, as well as in the contest to place students in college and jobs.

He said the School Department will soon form a task force that will look for ways of increasing revenue while dealing with fiscal constraints.

And he deplored the us-or-them mentality of recent budget discussions.

“Too often, it feels like a zero-sum game that pits teachers and schools against each other for dwindling resources,” Caron said. “The loudest or most organized voices often prevail at the expense of more comprehensive solutions.”

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.