The St. Paul public schools plans to lay off 117 teachers this summer as part of the effort to bridge a $27.2 million budget gap for next school year.
The teachers expected to lose their jobs are classified as "probationary" employees, because they are in their first three years of employment with the district and have not achieved tenure. Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva made the announcement at a Tuesday school board meeting at which board members approved a $623.8 million spending plan.
The teacher cuts are part of a larger plan that will lead to job cuts totaling more than the 267 positions that district officials cut last year to close a $25.1 million budget gap. This year's cuts will include more than 120 nonteaching positions and about 20 tenured teaching positions, district officials said. Last year the district laid off only one tenured teacher.
District officials are required to notify nonrenewed teachers by June 30, but frequently many are brought back for the fall as other teachers retire or new positions open. About 17 of the nonrenewals were performance-related, and five were for reasons other than the budget cuts.
The most controversial issue of the evening came from the district's decision to discontinue a program providing music lessons for students in grades four through six. About 50 students and supporters from Central High School attended the board meeting to protest the cuts. They played instruments outside the headquarters building and others involved in choral groups sang.
Music proponents have consistently attended board meetings in recent weeks to press the district to reinstate the $750,000 it spends on teachers who give music lessons to students during the school day. Silva said that program will be replaced with another that offers instrument lessons before and after school and on Saturdays.
That was hardly enough for Claire Dunivan, a senior at Central who said that without a strong music program the district could lose more students. "Cutting music now is like cutting enrollment later," she said.
Gregory A. Patterson • 612-673-7287