St. Paul schools to cut more than 300 positions

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The St. Paul school board has voted to eliminate more than 300 positions to balance next year's budget.

Probationary teachers are among those losing jobs, but tenured teachers are not.

School board member Jean O'Connell says layoff numbers might have been higher, but more than 100 staffers used an early retirement option.

"The reality in terms of teachers losing jobs — it's a significantly less number than that because we have a lot of teachers who chose to help us, in a way, by taking our early retirement package," O'Connell said. "That saved jobs for other teachers."

A one-time infusion of about $5 million from the federal government helped stave off further reductions. That infusion was from an Education Jobs funding bill that Congress passed in 2010. It is being used just as money from the 2009 federal stimulus is going away. A majority of the positions being eliminated are the result of not having that stimulus funding any longer, according to district officials.

"The biggest goal was to take the majority of reductions as far away from schools as possible, and I think the administration managed to do that as well as possible," O'Connell said.

Officials crafted the $636 million budget that takes effect July 1 without knowing exactly how much state funding the district would receive. Officials built assumptions into the plan, based on what the governor and Legislature have proposed. "With the uncertainty at the Capitol, this was a very difficult year to craft a budget," said board chair Elona Street-Stewart.

District officials also say they will have to borrow to meet cash needs if there's a government shutdown and state aid payments stop.

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