The St. Paul school board received an update Tuesday night on district efforts to resolve a $17.2 million budget gap — a week after the board made a late move to ease the crunch at one of its most popular schools.
The report included a long-awaited look at how many jobs could be lost as a result of the budget balancing. The district could lose about 27 full-time positions, with 3.25 of them involving teachers, said Laurin Cathey, the district’s human resources director.
The board is in its fourth consecutive year of budget-cutting and must approve a final 2018-19 budget by June 30.
An initial proposal to cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from Capitol Hill Gifted and Talented Magnet had drawn the most scrutiny to date, with parents wondering why the district wasn’t opening more seats to students on the school’s waiting list.
On Monday, the district confirmed it was opening slots for 56 students, bringing total enrollment to 1,300 and adding some much-needed per-pupil revenue.
“We are grateful for the movement on the part of the administration,” said Owen King, co-chair of the Capitol Hill PTO. “In general, I believe the district should fill popular schools to their capacity.”
Still, he said, he viewed the decision only as a first step, given that the school was losing $247,814 in federal Title I funding.
Altogether, however, the school-by-school budget sheets made available Tuesday night showed Capitol Hill now receiving a $99,868 increase in its budget allocation from a year ago — from $6.3 million for the current school year to $6.4 million in 2018-19.
Schools seeing large reductions include Adams Spanish Immersion, at $510,583, and Johnson senior high, at $508,986.
In other matters, the board also is considering scrapping a district policy that frowns upon school holiday parties.
The move comes two years after an East Side principal’s recommendation to end celebrations of “dominant holidays,” including Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas, at his school. That recommendation opened district leaders to criticism nationally.
Currently, the district’s holiday-observances policy states, in part: “Schools shall discourage programs and festivities arranged to celebrate holidays and other special days, and shall strive to eliminate them, except where such observances are required by law.”
A few other St. Paul principals acknowledged at the time of the 2016 controversy that some teachers allowed students to celebrate Valentine’s Day or used the occasion for academic purposes — for example, cutting out paper hearts as a “how to” exercise.
Now, a policy review committee is recommending scrapping the policy altogether.
“Our district values the diverse cultures of the students in our district,” a committee report states. “Holidays and celebrations are learning opportunities.”
Policy changes require three readings by the school board before they go into effect.