School district considers affirmative action

FILE - The arts tax measure on the November ballot is intended to increase the number of art and music classes in Portland schools, like the one taken by third-grader Corbin Markle at Sabin Elementary School. Undated photo. (Christopher Onstott/Portland Tribune)
FILE - The arts tax measure on the November ballot is intended to increase the number of art and music classes in Portland schools, like the one taken by third-grader Corbin Markle at Sabin Elementary School. Undated photo. (Christopher Onstott/Portland Tribune)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Hoping to hire more diverse teachers, members of the Portland Public School Board are discussing an affirmative action policy.

The district is looking to develop a plan that could help recruit and hire more teachers of color.

That could be especially important when looking to beef up teaching rosters for arts education funded through Portland’s new $35 Arts Tax (due May 15).

On Monday, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales proposed a deal which should allow all six Portland school districts to hire art instructors for the coming year.

Distribution of the money, estimated to be $6 million, was scheduled to begin November 2013. Under the deal proposed by Hales some city money would be freed up to guarantee initial funding for six districts.

Those districts are Portland Public Schools, Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose, Reynolds and Riverdale.

However, the arts tax — approved by Portland voters in November 2012 — has been challenged in two lawsuits.

“If the city were to lose either suit,” said Dana Haynes, press secretary for the mayor’s office, “the money might have to be given back to taxpayers.

As such, “The city will disburse $3 million in November,” the mayors office reported, “but no more during the 2013-14 fiscal year, pending favorable rulings or settlements on the law suits.”

Under Hales’ plan, the $3 million risk would be shared equally: $1 million from the city’s contingency fund; $1 million from future budget appropriations to the Regional Arts & Culture Council, or RACC; and $1 million combined from the six school districts.

The mayor said his focus has been on elementary school students in the Portland area. “We want these students to have the benefit of the arts education that taxpayers have supported, and to do it in a financially responsible way,” Hales said.

The Portland Public School Board has begun discussion on the hiring of those teachers. However, at least one member said they’re worried about moving forward without a backup plan.

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