Over the past several years I have put several high school study abroad proposals before Portland Public Schools. They have all been rejected, mostly by being ignored. I have suggested that PPS start with a pilot project of as few as five students budgeted at as little as $6,000 each for a total of $30,000. But, for purposes of this blog post, let us fully fund five students going to China for a school year at $8,400 each (here) for a total of $42,000. PPS gives me no reasons why my proposals are rejected, but let us assume some concern over scarce funding is involved. So what might PPS be currently paying for that is of lower priority than educating more of our next generation to help us face the challenges that China will present.
Well PPS rules “requires the Superintendent to submit to the Board of Education (“Board”) at the “Board's monthly business meeting a list of all contracts in amounts exceeding $25,000 and through $150,000 approved by the Superintendent or designees within the preceding 30-day period under the Superintendent's delegated authority.” These are listed online regularly with the material for Board meeting. The current listing is here, starting on page 29.
Lots of the current list might qualify as lesser priorities, but let us focus on just one. Yvonne Deckart, former city of Portland Human Resources Director (here), has a six month personal services contract for $90,000. That’s enough to send ten high schools students to China for a school year.
District-wide: Strategy development for upcoming PAT contract negotiations; onboarding support for incoming Executive Director of Human Resources; and political strategizing services for Superintendent.
$15,000 per month is a lot of money. Paying for “political strategizing services,” among other services, seems to be going a bit too far.
I’d try to cut back on the contracted amount by half and use the other half to send five students to China.