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Budget cuts hit Anoka-Hennepin school district

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Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Dennis Carlson
Anoka-Hennepin Superintendent Dennis Carlson
Tom Weber

In St. Paul, Minneapolis and across the state, school budgets are shrinking and enrollment is declining. That's prompted proposals to close schools and carry out other cost saving measures. 

Minnesota Public Radio's Perry Finelli spoke with Dennis Carlson, the superintendent of the Anoka-Hennepin School District, which is the largest in the state.

With a total budget of around $400 million, Carlson said they've already cut $16 million from the budget and may have to cut another $12 million, depending on the outcome of the current legislative session.

Carlson said that will affect operations in many ways, but school closures will be the most visible. He said three or four schools are on the chopping block, but no decisions can be made until a final budget is known. 

"We have a staff and citizens group looking at that now," he said.

He said how many schools will close also depends on how many teachers are needed and available. Likely schools facing closure would also have declining enrollment, he said.

That would lead to increasing class sizes. Carlson said the average would be two additional students per class, but warned it would never be even, with some classes accommodating seven to ten more students. 

Negotiations with teachers to freeze their pay have already started, he said.

"Everyone is being asked to sacrifice as much as they can or are willing to," Carlson said. "It's a tough time to do that when the future is so unclear."