Mpls School Budget Priority Falls on Principals

Updated: 03/26/2013 8:07 AM By: Beth McDonough

Important decisions are being debated that affect thousands of families in Minneapolis.

They're decisions about what's in and what's out at all 56 schools.  That means likely cuts to programs, staff and more.  Schools got an updated budget from the district Monday.  Some schools will be affected more than others.

Parents in Southwest Minneapolis are especially worried.

When you hear the words schools and budget, most people tune out.

"Education funding is super super complicated," says Christa Anders, a parent whose children go to Minneapolis Schools. She says she's more tuned in than ever to the escalating budget dilemma.

"Why isn't it a crisis that our kids are going without? I don't get it what could be more important than educating our next generation," says Anders. That's a pointed question she put in writing to school district leaders.  Dozens of other parents signed it, too. 

Robert Doty, the Chief Financial Officer for Minneapolis Schools, crunched the 2014 numbers and cringed.  The budget is $517 million. With state funding the same this year as last and enrollment rising, plus the districts reserve account is off limits, there's less money to go around.  The net result: a $25 million deficit.

Doty says something has to be done. "How to streamline your operations, how do you achieve the things you need to achieve with a smaller pot of resources?" he asks.

The district looked in house first, proposing the elimination of 50 positions here at headquarters, a savings of $18 million dollars. That's not enough. The principals at each campus have been told to come up with a priority list of what can stay and what can go, putting some teachers, staff, classes and programs in jeopardy. $7 million more needs to be cut.

"It makes me feel incensed it's wrong," Anders says. She heads up the Southwest High School Foundation. She says Southwest could lose five staffers and some core classes to save $450,000. She wonders, if its worth it?

"It's like you're cutting off the tools we need to raise these children so they can achieve their full potential," according to Anders.

Doty responds, "We're trying to approach this from an equity perspective and every school has what it needs to make sure to provide a high quality education to every kid at that school."

By the end of the week, principals of each school must turn in their priority list to the district.  The School Board will vote on the issue at its June meeting.  District officials will hold various town hall type meetings starting this Thursday through June to explain the budget process.