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Mary Hudetz Associated Press Writerv
Published: 18 February 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- School districts throughout Oregon are concerned that teachers and other staff will have to be cut before the start of next school year, according to a pair of state education organizations.
The state faces an $850 million shortfall for the budget year that ends June 30, and the projected deficit for the following two years is nearly $3 billion. While the situation has led to expectations of a shortened school year, surveys compiled by the Oregon Education Association and Confederation of Oregon School Administrators show many of the 199 school districts fear jobs will have to go to make ends meet.
Portland Public Schools has yet to discuss staff cuts for next school year, though it might have to cut as much as $20 million for 2009-2010, depending on how the district fares with federal stimulus dollars and the state's budget, said Robb Cowie, district spokesman.
"We don't know the final score on this by any means,'' he said. "But when you are talking about a cut of $20 million or more, there's really no way to ensure that kind of cut won't hit the classroom.''
Last week, the Confederation of School Administrators surveyed roughly two-thirds of Oregon's 199 school districts, asking them what cuts would likely be made if they faced additional revenue reductions of $160 per student.
Of the 140 school districts who responded, 40.7 percent answered that staff layoffs would be likely, as well as reduced spending for textbooks, nutrition programs, field trips and other costs.
One district that said layoffs are among a handful of options is Beaverton, which is facing a projected $37 million budget deficit for the 2009-10 school year, said Maureen Wheeler, district spokeswoman.
"I think the next couple of years will be challenging for all school districts,'' she said.
One of the challenges is even getting a handle on the precise shortfall in an ever-worsening economy. Just two months ago, the school district's projected budget deficit was $20.5 million, according to the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators.
In the Ashland School District, staff cuts are certain. Layoff notices went out Friday as the state released its latest economic forecast, The Ashland Daily Tidings newspaper reported. The number of cuts were to be announced at a community meeting Monday night.
"Every great staff member that we have to let go is a tragedy both to the district and in their lives, and unfortunately there are going to be more cuts based on this forecast,'' school board Chair Mat Marr told the newspaper. "I don't think you can overstate how bad things are.''
Administrators and board members at other districts -- both big and small -- are expressing the same sentiment, though few have announced how many teachers and staff members are in jeopardy of losing their jobs.
According to the confederation survey, the Grants Pass School District, which back in December was looking at a projected deficit of more than $3.3 million, would likely have to include personnel cuts because the staff comprises roughly 90 percent of expenses.
To the east, Baker City School District expects to cut jobs from its 250-member staff as it looks to remove $1.5 million from its 2009-2010 budget, according to the survey from the Oregon Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union.

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