The Anoka-Hennepin school board decided Monday to lay off scores of teachers, reduce its textbook purchases, cut one day off the school calendar and scale back bus services to climb out of a $15.8 million budget hole.
Nowhere listed in the cuts for the 2009-2010 school year are more dramatic measures, such as closing schools, which neighboring districts have had to resort to over the past year.
Still, district officials say, school closings could be in the cards for the 2010-2011 school year. School board chairman Tom Heidemann said the district could close or significantly change the programs of four elementary schools for the 2010-2011 school year.
Some details have yet to be worked out. For instance, specific cuts in athletics have yet to be detailed, though reducing travel distances for sporting events, and consolidating or eliminating some programs are being considered. Also, changes in bus routes will likely result in different starting and ending times for some schools next year.
But board members did specify the number of teachers to be laid off: 59 at the elementary school level, 33 middle school teachers and 38 high school teachers. Eliminating those positions will save $6.7 million. It would mark the first time since 2001 that the district has made significant teacher reductions. But Heidemann said it could have been worse.
"We tried to put our best foot forward and stay away from the classrooms as much as we could," he said, adding classroom cuts amounted to 44 percent of the total reductions but account for 75 percent of the budget.
He said the textbook reductions would come from delaying the purchase of new textbooks, and he charged that the constant tinkering of academic requirements by the Legislature results in the need for new textbooks that sends costs skyrocketing.
Elk River schools also announced this week that its board directed district officials to make $8 million in budget cuts over the next two years. That would include laying off 24 teachers next year and 12 teachers in 2010-2011.
Numerous Twin Cities districts have said they need to cut millions from their 2009-2010 budgets. Deficits for districts surveyed by the Association of Metropolitan School Districts and released in December showed shortfalls ranging from $400,000 in St. Anthony-New Brighton schools to Minneapolis schools' $28 million.
Much depends on what the Legislature offers in school funding this year. With the state looking at a $4.8 billion shortfall, schools aren't counting on any increases. Still, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, in his budget proposal released last month, actually proposed school funding increases tied to student performance and adoption of Pawlenty's Q Comp plan, which offers teachers pay raises based on student performance and teacher quality evaluations. Also, no one knows how much a federal stimulus package will affect Minnesota schools.
Norman Draper • 612-673-4547