Survey: Schools face big cuts, even if state funding stays flatby Tom Weber, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — A new survey shows more than 1,200 employees at more than 30 metro districts would lose their jobs if lawmakers cut state education funding. More than 800 of those lost jobs would be teaching positions.
The Association of Metro School Districts asked members what their local budget shortfalls would be if state funding stays flat or if there's a 3.2 percent cut. Those are the two levels of funding the House and Senate have separately passed.
- See a list of districts and their expected shortfalls here.
The association's Scott Croonquist says it's important to show lawmakers the impacts as they negotiate a final number.
"There has been a misperception at the Capitol that education has been treated with kid gloves over the years," said Croonquist. "Even under the flat funding scenario, we're going to lay off staff, we're going to be making program cuts - there's going to be impacts on students."
The 32 districts that responded to the survey - including Anoka-Hennepin, Minneapolis, and St. Paul - would have combined local shortfalls of $135 million if state funding stays flat - and more than $222 million if the state cuts 3.2 percent. Even with flat funding, more than 500 teaching positions are likely to be cut.
The Minneapolis School District says its $28 million gap would balloon to $38 million if the current Senate version is enacted.
Anoka-Hennepin superintendent Dennis Carlson says his district's estimate of a $30.4 million deficit in the event of a state funding cut is "conservative" and could grow to as high as $50 million, depending on how ongoing teacher contracts talks go and whether voters agree to renew a school levy this fall.
"We're clearly going to close schools" as a way to help balance the budget, Carlson added.
Senate Democrats say their across-the-board cuts to all departments helps share sacrifices.
When the Senate passed its version with cuts to education in early April, Sen. Leroy Stumpf, DFL-Plummer, said at the time that it's impossible for education not to participate in that solution when it represents 40 percent of state spending.
"We've tried to look at mechanisms to mitigate that," he said. "But in the end, budgets are going to be cut, staff will be cut and there will be some real pain out there."
Gov. Tim Pawlenty is proposing a 2.2 percent increase in school funding, with the money tied to achievement. Croonquist called that proposal the best of the three so far, but he adds much of Pawlenty's money comes in the second year of the two-year budget.