Minneapolis restores $2 million in school budget cuts

  • Article by: STEVE BRANDT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 7, 2013 - 9:22 PM

The additional money will particularly help schools in the city’s southwestern corner.

More than $2 million will be coming to ease the sting of budget cuts for Minneapolis public schools, especially in the southwestern corner of the city where parents have been protesting vocally.

School officials said the money was restored in meetings that were scheduled even before the first wave of budgets sent shock waves through some schools. The money was added days before the March 29 deadline for principals to submit their final budgets to the district office for approval.

Southwest Minneapolis schools got more money in the final allotment in part because they get less federal and state aid for educating students in poverty than most schools elsewhere in the city, according to finance officials. Thus, cuts to schools there more quickly cut closer to core classroom budgets.

The addition of the $2 million-plus does not erase all the cuts schools are facing.

K-5 elementary schools districtwide can expect nearly $1.9 million less next school year than they’re currently budgeted. K-8 schools, including those split between two campuses, are down more than $1.3 million, while middle schools are down $776,000. High schools take the biggest hit with a loss of $4.2 million, and Edison is sustaining $1.9 million of that.

The biggest factor in those cuts is the district’s decision to balance its budget without dipping into its surplus.

The district’s lower-poverty schools already were allocated $7 million atop the district’s normal budgeting formula to make sure they can offer at least a minimal program when the formula doesn’t give them enough.

The latest money is particularly welcome at one southwest school, Lake Harriet, which operates on two campuses. The upper school calculated in mid-March that it was down $212,000 for next year.

The latest adjustment adds $105,195. That allows Principal Mary Rynchek to add back some things she had to trim initially. The school will do without an accounts clerk who tracks money for purposes like field trips, instead expecting secretaries to do the work. The school will eat the part-time position dedicated to string instrument instruction, asking the band teacher to compress band and strings into his part-time position.

Parents still concerned

“I think we can continue our program with quality,” Rynchek said.

But one Lake Harriet parent leader said that parents still are concerned with final budget numbers, especially for the upper grades campus. Caroline Cochran, co-chair of the school’s site council, said she remains concerned that the school lacks sufficient education aides who do important work such as monitoring students at buses, lunch and recess.

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