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PORTLAND Physical Education in Portland Public Schools won t be cut completely after all, board members and the superintendent agreed Monday night.

District leaders modified the proposed budget and said PE will still likely face cutbacks and shortened schedules. All this after teachers, students and board members made it clear that PE was just too important to give up.

PE and library are the two things we built in common across our system that we're saying we don't want to lose the capacity, said PPS Superintendent Carole Smith.

The board had originally proposed cutting PE entirely, in order to close the $19 million budget hole. But now district leaders said they re confident the school system will get $7 million in federal stimulus money, which will be enough to keep PE in place for now.

PE is very important because it helps kids exercise and become more active which helps children from becoming obese, said student Michael Koukoumanos.

The district will still need to cut $5.6 million in school staffing, about 62 full-time teaching positions. Smith said she planned to give principals the authority in deciding how to reduce their staff but they will be required to keep at least a half-time PE teacher and library assistant.

More: Budget cut details

Up to 25 people in central administration and support could lose jobs in $3.1 million in cuts there.

Another $4.6 million will come from cuts to special education and English as a second language programs, the equivalent of 52 full-time teachers. Smith remains confident that the district will continue to comply with federal regulations for those services.

If for some reason, the federal stimulus money falls through, then PE will likely be placed back on the chopping block.

Sometime between now and mid August, a Congressional conference committee was expected to work on a compromise for local educational subsidies. The Portland School Board will make final trims after that.

We must reduce our costs and consider all options but we can t look past the fact that we have a revenue problem in this state, said board member David Wynde. PE is the canary in the coal mine and Oregon is not adequately funding K-12 education. If you support PE, if you support the arts or music, please stay with us, stay vocal and stay in front of the elected officials that control our funding.

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