Not new teachers, the teachers who are teaching now

Over at Metroblogging Portland, blogger Betsy points out how Willamette Week skews the story on the Portland Schools levy -- and it's all about one word:

First, the quote from WW:

Within weeks, Portlanders will be asked to vote on a $187.5 million, five-year local-option increase in their property taxes to help Portland Schools pay for 380 new teachers, new textbooks and other classroom supplies.

And Betsy's take:

It takes just one word to skew what looks like an innocuous sentence into something that's glaringly, factually incorrect. What's the big deal, you think? How much damage can one word do? ...

Where's the error? The whole 'new teachers' part. We don't 'get' new teachers - we 'get' to not lay off 380 teachers that we already have. And it's a critical misinterpretation of what the local option levy's about (enough to make me question the 'facts' presented in the rest of the piece, to be honest.)

It's not primarily about getting 'extra.' It isn't designed to buy 'more.' The school budget doesn't increase. Instead, we filled a budget gap this year - 33 million dollars (which started out at 57 million before the district took a paring knife to last year's budget) with one-time money from the city, county, and other resources. This year - for the first time in 10 years - we didn't have to lay off teachers. We'd like to keep it that way for the next five years - that's why the local option's on the ballot.

Discuss over at Metroblogging Portland.

(Hat tip to Oregon Media Insiders.)


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