Saving money with a shorter school year is an idea that appears to be dividing Minneapolis parents, a split that’s partly based on race.
A district survey of mostly white Minneapolis parents and district employees says that a shorter school year is all right, as long as class sizes don’t grow. Parents of color, however, aren’t nearly as sold on fewer school days.
The Minneapolis district used surveys to test possible cuts as it stares down a $33 million deficit for next school year. The latest online and phone surveys and focus groups were conducted by the district as it prepares to make final budget decisions in coming months.
District officials have batted around hypotheticals at board meetings, but one thing is clear: Large-scale cuts must happen.
Superintendent Ed Graff has said all options are on the table, including cutting school days, which could save $1 million per day.
“Now that we have that information around what is valued by our community, we will be incorporating this into our budget recommendations,” Graff said at Tuesday evening’s board meeting.
In January, the board is scheduled to vote on whether to reduce this school year by two days.
Most respondents supported cutting two days this year and starting classes after Labor Day next year. Those polled want the district to use resources in ways that focus on better student outcomes and equity.
The results differed between online surveys, which were taken by mostly white people, and phone surveys, which mostly questioned people of color.
About 70 percent of the more than 3,000 people who took the online survey supported cutting two days this year and starting next year after Labor Day.
The 750 phone survey responses were more mixed. Just 30 percent of those participants were in favor of shaving off two days, and 44 percent were in favor of beginning post-Labor Day.
A lack of support for calendar switches could stem from worries about child care and after-school activities, focus group respondents said.
The evaluation team is convening budget focus groups at middle and high schools in December.
The school board also certified a property tax levy at a 6.02 percent increase over the previous year.